Green spaces do more than just give some colour to the concrete jungle that is our cities — going green provides huge benefits to the mental health of urban dwellers:

In the paper, “Nature and mental health: An ecosystem service perspective”,  by Gregory Bratman et. al., being in nature is related to improvements in several of our body functions:

  • Memory and attention
  • Imagination and creativity
  • School performance

Walking in nature was also shown to be effective in uplifting the mood of those afflicted with mild to major depressive disorders. With this, they are encouraged to move forward and recover.

Allowing ourselves to be immersed in nature is said to be a way for us to feel more grateful, appreciative, and aware of the environment. This enhances not only our mental state but also our spirituality.

This makes you want to breathe in some fresh air outdoors, doesn’t it? Only if our cities will make that a nice activity to do. Ridden with smoke and pollution, our cities are not exactly the best places to be in sync with nature.

What city planners can do

The paper by Bratman and others outline four steps that city planners could consider modifying to incorporate nature in cities:

  1. Determining which aspects of natural features are relevant to mental health
  2. Increasing exposure to nature by improving access and availability of natural features.
  3. Studying the specific ways in which people interact with nature since this may account for differential impacts of nature exposure on mental health.
  4. Characterization of the potential mental health impacts that follow from nature experience in order to refine new or existing green space implementations.
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We have focused quite a lot on how incorporating greenery into our cities will make our living spaces sustainable. It is now time to reshape our cities further to make them places where people will feel liberated from stress and anxiety.

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