Open Voices Blog

Archives for posts tagged as "wellbeing"

Evidence of Nature Benefits for Mental Wellness #3

05/20/14 | View Comments

Every individual can cope with the normal stresses of life.

Mental Wellness FINAL 3


“Stress response is triggered by the physical elements of our surroundings, by unpleasant social interactions, or by a perception of something threatening or fearful. When stressed one’s body releases hormones, such as cortisol, that trigger an inner ‘fight or flight’ response. Frequent stress response can fatigue the immune system, and negatively affect other health responses. Researchers typically describe stress in two ways: acute and chronic stress. Acute stress plays an evolutionary and survival role, occurs less often, and is in response to an alarming or traumatic event (such as loss of a job or death of a loved one). Chronic stress occurs when one experiences an ongoing stressor (such as daily freeway commuting, or work demands), leading to a heightened and nearly constant physiological response. Chronic stress is now more often studied because it is the type of stress most likely experienced by urban dwellers, and is an alarming public health threat. One can reduce or eliminate stressors, avoid situations that are triggers, or develop the mindfulness to cope with challenge. Studies suggest that nearby nature experiences in cities can be a helpful buffer.

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Evidence of Nature Benefits for Mental Wellness #2

05/12/14 | View Comments

Every individual realizes his or her own potential.

Mental Wellness FINAL 4

“Decades ago Abraham Maslow described the concept of a hierarchy of human needs.  The major idea is that people have basic needs such as food, water, and shelter. Once these needs are satisfied, a person, through learning, work, constructive action, and relationships with other people, ascends a series of stages to self-actualization. This pursuit of one’s potential is not necessarily step-wise. One can work toward having clean water, and at the same time pursue acts of creativity or social interactions that support one’s self-esteem. Rarely considered on these terms, encounters with nature and involvement in stewardship within one’s community may help a person to satisfy both basic and more abstract human needs, particularly those that involve mental wellness and function.

  • Urban nature, when incorporated into community planning and building design, provides calming and inspiring environments and can encourage learning, inquisitiveness, and alertness1,2.
  • Using national data for 10,000 people in the UK, a recent study found that, on average, individuals have both lower mental distress and higher well-being when living in urban areas with more green spaces3.
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Evidence of Nature Benefits for Mental Wellness #1

05/06/14 | View Comments

Every individual can work productively and fruitfully.

Mental Wellness FINAL 1

“Early city beautification programs focused on quality of life and generating a harmonious social order within crowded industrial cities. Today, incorporating nature into everyday places is seen as important for an additional reason—the effects on quality of life and human productivity. Cities with amenities are more desirable, and people who are healthy and are generally satisfied with life may also be better able to work toward both individual and community goals. New urban greening initiatives help create a “sense of place” for a city or town, generating a sense of pride for ones’ community. In addition, high-quality human habitat can be the places where students, workers, and community leaders restore their minds and bodies, enabling them to continue the important work that helps to keep a local community competitive1.

  • Mental restoration is gained from spending time in an urban green space, and increased length of stay (up to 1.5 hours) increases the restorative effect2.
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Feeling Stressed? Take a Time Out in Nature

04/24/14 | View Comments

Can I benefit from simply viewing trees or a garden from my window?

Stress FINAL 1

“Research evidence shows that environments with natural elements have restorative or stress reducing effects, more so than those without nature. Views of nature (such as trees water, or a garden) appear to have more positive influences on psychological and physiological states, compared to those urban scenes that lack natural elements. These effects appear whether one is in a natural environment (1) or looking out at nature through a window (2). In a key study, a stress inducing movie was presented to study subjects, then each viewed one of six videos depicting various built hardscapes and natural environments (3). Response measures included self-rated stress levels and objective physiological indicators such as heart rate, muscle tension, skin conductance and pulse transit time (which correlates with systolic blood pressure). Recovery was faster and more complete for individuals that viewed natural versus built settings. With natural views, stress recovery happened remarkably fast—within minutes. Other research findings also break down components of natural environments and show that simply viewing nature helps restore mental fatigue (4) (5) (6) .”

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Recommended Reading: Stress Response Report

10/31/13 | View Comments

When confronted with a stressful situation, what is your coping mechanism? Do you take a few deep breaths before tackling the problem? Scientists say maybe you should try going outside for a walk to relieve stress in your daily life.

Photo courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons, taken by Amanda Roberts.

“More than 100 studies now confirm that stress reduction and mental restoration are significant benefits associated with living near green areas, having a view of vegetation, and spending time in natural settings,” according to our Stress Response Report. “Even watching images on a com­puter or television monitor has been found to be restorative.” The findings from these studies have been brought together in our report to describe just how nature proves to benefit our mental health.

Measures of stress include quantitative data such as blood pressure, heart rate, and conditions of the central nervous system. Other studies on stress use self-reported health indicators, such as number of headaches, work absenteeism, or anxiety symptoms in a certain time period.

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    We are a private nonprofit that supports, informs, and inspires the creation of publicly accessible urban green spaces. We believe that every city resident needs nearby green space to provide opportunities for mindfulness, respite, and renewal. The Foundation has issued its final grants to build five Open Spaces Sacred Places and research the impacts on a variety of users with the hope that the powerful connection between nature, spirit and human wellbeing will be scientifically proven.

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