Evidence of Nature Benefits for Mental Wellness #1

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.
  • Focusing on tasks that require a lot of concentration in work or school leads to cognitive fatigue. With greater fatigue we are unable to work as well, become irritable, and may feel a general tiredness. Short breaks in nature help to restore the mind from this mental fatigue, perhaps contributing to improved work performance and satisfaction3, 4.
  • Depression can impact a person’s motivation to work and learn. Symptoms of major depressive disorder (MDD) include impaired working memory, and persistent negative mood. In one study MDD patients were set up to take 50 minute walks in either a natural or highly built setting5. Participants exhibited significant increases in memory span after the nature walk relative to the urban walk, and showed increases in mood. The effect sizes were nearly five times as large for MDD individuals compared to healthy individuals (in another study). Interacting with nature may be useful clinically as a supplement to existing treatments for MDD.
  • Workplace managers are increasingly providing opportunities for employee physical activity, for better health and reduced care costs. There may be synergy between the psychological benefits of physical activity, and the restorative effects of contact with natural environments. One study concluded that physical activity in natural environments is associated with reduced risk of poor mental health to a greater extent than physical activity in other environments6.
  • Over 2 million children in the U.S. have been diagnosed with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorders (ADHD). Such a child has reduced attention capacity, which can have detrimental effects on social and psychological growth, affecting school performance. In one study, parents judged that attention deficit symptoms were more manageable after their child did activities in green settings than after activities in other settings. Also, the greener a child’s play area, the less severe his or her attention deficit symptoms; children who played in windowless indoor settings had significantly more severe symptoms than those who played in grassy, outdoor spaces (with or without trees)7. In a follow up study green outdoor activities reduced symptoms significantly more than did either built outdoor activities or indoor activities8. A third study found that children with ADHD concentrated better after a walk in the park than after a downtown walk or a neighborhood walk9.”

For more about the healing power of nature:  Reflect and Restore – Urban Green Space for Mental Wellness

1 Wolf, K.L. 2014. Greening the city for health. Communities & Banking 25, 1: 10-12.

2 Korpela, K.M., M. Ylén, L. Tyrväinen, & H. Silvennoinen. 2008. Determinants of restorative experiences in everyday favorite places. Health & Place 14, 4: 636-652.

3 Kaplan, R. 1993. The role of nature in the context of the workplace. Landscape and Urban Planning 26, 1-4: 193-201.

4 Kaplan, S. 1995. The restorative benefits of nature: Toward an integrative framework. Journal of Environmental Psychology 15, 3: 169-182.

5 Berman, M.G., E. Kross, K.M. Krpan, M.K. Askren, A. Burson, P.J. Deldin, S. Kaplan, L. Sherdell, I.H. Gotlib, & J. Jonides. 2012. Interacting with nature improves cognition and affect for individuals with depression. Journal of Affective Disorders 140, 3: 300-05.

6 Mitchell, R. 2013. Is physical activity in natural environments better for mental health than physical activity in other environments? Social Science & Medicine 91: 130-134.

7 Taylor, A. F., F.E. Kuo, & W.C. Sullivan. 2001. Coping with ADD: The surprising connection to green play settings. Environment and Behavior, 33:54-77.

8 Kuo, F. E., & A.F. Taylor. 2004. A potential natural treatment for attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder: Evidence from a national study. American Journal of Public Health 94: 1580.

9 Taylor, A.F., & F.E. Kuo. 2009. Children with attention deficits concentrate better after walk in the park. Journal of Attention Disorders 12, 5: 402-09.