Mental Health and the Outdoors: The Power of Green Spaces

Article by Meaghan E. Duda:

Over half of the world’s population already lives in urban areas, and that number is predicted to rise to over 70% in the coming decades. This growing global trend toward urbanization means that the majority of the world’s population will continue to spend less and less time exposed to natural environments.1 As this disconnection from nature has grown, so have mental illnesses such as depression and anxiety.

Research has shown that mood disorders and overall lower psychological well-being are more prevalent in urban areas.2 However, it’s not all bad news for those of us who live in cities! Even just close proximity to greenspace has been associated with lower levels of stress, depression, and anxiety. Small green areas dispersed across an urban area still aid in the alleviation of mental distress.2

A study from Stanford University shows that walking in nature has a direct, quantifiable link to a decreased risk of depression.3 The study’s author says the “results suggest that accessible natural areas may be vital for mental health in our rapidly urbanizing world.”

The benefits of nature on mental health are even more extensive than just decreasing your risk of depression and anxiety. Scientists are finding that being in nature helps reduce blood pressure, improve creativity, increase our attention capacity, and strengthen our ability to connect with others.4 Furthermore, being in nature has a profound effect on our happiness levels.

It can be hard to take a break from our hectic lives, but just a few minutes outdoors in green spaces has a multitude of benefits on our mood. And remember, if you want to spend a whole day in nature doing something new and exciting, 37 North is always here to help you Get Sweaty, Get Happy, and Get Connected.

1: National Center for Biotechnology Information

2: Environmental Research and Public Health

3: Stanford University

4: UC Berkeley – Greater Good Magazine

Meaghan Duda