So you’re feeling stressed – you have a heavy workload and a never ending to-do list. You decide to go on a quick walk, away from the hustle of city life and enter a nearby park. The wind rustles through the trees, you take a breath of fresh air smelling of freshly cut grass, and notice the sun is shining perfectly on a leaf. A smile then appears on your face. What just happened? Where did your stress go? Your physical and mental health were just improved by a green space!
What’s a green space? Green spaces are the wonderful (and helpful) break of traffic congestion, skyscrapers, shops, concrete, and residential areas with a natural landscape such as a park. A study with data from 44 cities across the country expresses a “strong relationship between park coverage and health” and “suggests that expansive park networks relate to well-being in ways that positively impact urban quality of life.” Nature also improves immune system function! How? Plants and trees release organic compounds (phytoncides), which help activate “the innate immune response that helps the body reject tumors and, important in the novel coronavirus era, fight viral infections.” Beyond mental and physical health, green spaces also have a positive impact at a social level by creating a sense of belonging, a location to convene, and an opportunity for residents to be physically active (walking or jogging) and socialize with neighbors (while practicing safe COVID-19 health measures).
With the COVID-19 pandemic, perhaps you’ve felt an extra pull to be outside because of all of the time you spend inside – again, there’s reasoning behind that because of the benefits that natural environments provide!
Do you have any children? Over the past three decades as we socially have started spending more time in front of a screen and less time outdoors, it can lead to Nature-Deficit Disorder. What is that and why does it appear so serious? Well, it is! Journalist Richard Louv coined this term, which refers to “a nonmedical condition that suggests that spending less time outdoors can contribute to behavioral changes in children.” Research from Dr. Ming Kuo, an associate professor at the University of Illinois who studies urban greening, shows through research that “access to green space decreases aggression and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder symptoms, and boosts the immune system.”
So, with four out of five individuals in the U.S. living in cities, the negative impacts on health and well-being for ourselves and our children due to the lack of green spaces are concerning. Lucky for us in Los Angeles, we have many green spaces to visit! Here’s a list of green spaces to visit to get you started on supporting your mental and physical health:
Did you know there are also environmental benefits to green spaces? Some of many benefits include: limiting stormwater pollution, absorbing carbon emissions from the air, reducing heat buildup, and increasing the biodiversity of animal life! So venture to your nearest green space and take in all the good that nature has to offer – just be sure to keep CDC recommendations in mind by having your mask on and maintaining an appropriate distance of six feet. Do you know other benefits to green spaces or any green spaces to add to this list? Let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org.