Think about the last time you stared up at the clouds, listened to the birds, or planted flowers. Chances are that the experience brought some peace and calmness to the moment, and brought a "sense of oneness" with the world around you. Chances are that your response is shared by the majority of us.
According to the American Public Health Association, human beings of all ages are pre-programmed to find comfort in natural settings such as gardens, parks, and natural landscapes. Children value natural environments as a place to explore. Teenagers appreciate parks as a place to hang out with friends. Employees report diminished stress and fewer health complaints in settings that include nature scenes and plants. Elders who spend times in gardens have a reduced risk of dementia.
For many of you it's no surprise that nature influences our physical, emotional, and social well-being. Not only does spending time in natural environments increase physical activity, it also decreases pain, illness, AND mortality. Stress and anxiety are reduced. Researchers have also found evidence of increased attention span in children with ADHD (Dunckley) and increased life engagement in people with dementia (Jarrot et al). Finally, time spent in "green space" has been shown to increase empathy for others and bonding between community members.
Spring is a perfect time to take advantage of natural habitats to improve your well-being... whether in your personal "backyard" or the expanded "backyard" of your local and county park systems. Either way, you're bound to find at least one of the two environments that humans prefer: the small and comfortable where we feel safe, and savannas, grassy areas with few trees (ASLA). Go ahead... get out of the house. There's a good chance that your body, your brain, and even your neighbors will all thank you.
For links to research on the multiple ways that nature can improve well-being, visit the Health Benefits of Nature website sponsored by the American Society of Landscape Architects.
For a list of Lake County Forest Preserves, click here.
Remember that nature is your great restorer.
- Calvin Coolidge