By Wendy Masterson, Hannah Carver and Tessa Parkes in The Conversation.
How does walking through a forest make you feel? Peaceful? Blissful? Reflective? For many people, lockdown brought a new appreciation of nature and what it means for our well-being. The health benefits of immersing ourselves in “greenspace” are now widely accepted. Living in areas with grass and trees has been linked to lower risk of various health conditions such as high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease. As well as physical health, greenspace is associated with positive mental health.
A recent study found that people who spent at least two hours in nature per week were consistently more likely to report higher levels of health and well-being compared to people who spent less time in nature.
Our work seeks to understand exactly how greenspace programmes can improve mental health. A greenspace programme, or nature-based intervention, is a health project typically run outside in parks, woodland, forests and other greenspace areas.
These programmes can be designed for anyone, but have been shown to be particularly beneficial for those with poorer mental health. Projects can range from structured therapy programmes such as adventure, wilderness and horticultural therapies, to less formal activities such as community gardening, guided walks and the Japanese notion of “forest bathing” or shinrin-yoku.
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