How Greenery Improves Your Quality of Life and Well-Being

green tree happyWhen a tree grows in Brooklyn, you can bet that people on that particular Brooklyn street are probably happier than their tree-less counterparts. That’s because green growing things make us happy, especially when we’re normally smashed into tight quarters and surrounded by concrete.

A study published in Psychological Science found that green spaces, parks and gardens in high-density city areas have the power to enhance the quality of life and the well-being of those who live there.

Nice! Who knew getting happy could be as easy as planting a tree?

The study surveyed 5,000 households across the UK over a 17-year period, keeping track of the people’s self-reported psychological health as they moved from place to place, the BBC noted. The impact of green things on a person’s psychological health remained positive, backing up what has come to be known as the “green space effect.”

 The ‘Green Space Effect’

  • People who live in greener areas reported higher levels of life satisfaction and lower levels of mental duress
  • The effect held true regardless of house type, income, employment or marital status, or physical health
  • While the green space effect was not as huge or life-changing as the effects of other life events or situations, it ranked at about 1/10th the satisfaction level of being employed (versus unemployed) 

And all those small, positive individual boosts could add up to a large, societal boost, researchers said, noting urban planners could use this info when they’re designing cities. Going outside and enjoying face time with the green made people happier still. A vast 94 percent of people who participated in an outdoor “green exercise” reported mental health benefits.

Mental health benefits can include a decrease in stress, anxiety and symptoms that typically come with paruresis. Enhanced mental health can also lead to improvements in physical health and a decreased risk of chronic, stress-related conditions.

So Get Outside, Already!

Even if you’re living in a concrete high rise or stuck in a cubicle all day, you can reap the green space effect benefits with several quick tips.

Take a daily outdoor walk. This walk can take place any time of day, such as your lunch break during work, or even consist of a nighttime hike after dinner. It may also fulfill your daily exercise recommendation which suggests adults get at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise per day.

Trade TV watching for bird watching. Instead of slouching in front of the boot tube for hours on end, why not start watching wildlife. $10 says any type of wildlife is infinitely more interesting than yet another banal reality show. Even if you don’t live near a wooded lake or nature preserve, you can enjoy local wildlife with a few strategic birdfeeders staked out around your window or squirrel feeders in your backyard.

Get artsy. Nature is chock full of inspiration for poems, paintings, literature and even craft projects using pine cones or river rocks. Use your walk time as discovery time to truly experience the joys and creative tidbits nature has to offer. Gather interesting things you find along the way for a later collage or project. You might even get a pine cone wreath out of the deal!


Photo Credit: tochis via Compfight cc