Getting outside and into nature regularly isn’t something everyone can manage when we are increasingly living in bigger cities and smaller houses or apartments. There may be ways that people can experience nature even when they live in an apartment, and even if they have a very small back yard.
Researchers have found the benefits to your health increase when you spend more time in nature. One study found that among volunteer gardeners, the more time spent gardening the lower their levels of stress; and the more time spent idle, the higher their levels of stress.
This was regardless of how much social interaction they had.
Another Australian study found that just 30 minutes a week had a noticeable improvement on people’s depression and blood pressure. Researchers specified that time spent in attractive green spaces was beneficial.
Even the strictest restrictions in Australia allow for exercise, so this study would suggest that the gain the most benefit from your exercise, finding an attractive green space will give you even more benefit than exercising in an urban area.
A review of many studies of people with mobility impairments found that even looking out at nature through a window can improve the mental and physical health of people. Two studies cited specifically mentioned big trees being beneficial!
Not everyone lives where they can access green spaces and not everyone has a nature view from their window. But even the smallest living space can accommodate plant life. So, if you can’t get out into nature every week, think about how you can bring some nature inside.
Gardening was also found to have similar benefits to being in nature. Studies found that physical and psychological health improved through participating in gardening activities whether in their own home or in a community garden.
For those of you living in apartments or who have little or no backyards you can also enjoy benefits by tending to plants on a balcony, a collection of plants on a windowsill, or even hanging baskets in the bathroom. There are many plants that thrive indoors and that need very limited attention.
Keeping a small indoor watering can near the tap can be a helpful reminder to water.
Even if you are experiencing restrictions as a result of the COVID-19 health crisis, see if you can plan your exercise at least once a week in an open green space, preferably one with big trees.
If you have some space nearby to nurture some greenery, whether your own or shared with your community, next time you have a chance go out spend a little time gardening.
Regardless of the challenges you might be experiencing; the EAP is here to support you. You can make an appointment by emailing email@example.com or by calling 1800 629 277 in Australia and 0800 327 669 in New Zealand.
1. Hofmann, M., Young, C., Binz, T. M., Baumgartner, M. R., & Bauer, N. (2018). Contact to nature benefits health: Mixed effectiveness of different mechanisms. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 15(1), 31. doi:http://dx.doi.org.ezproxy.slq.qld.gov.au/10.3390/ijerph15010031
2. Shanahan, D. F., Bush, R., Gaston, K. J., Lin, B. B., Dean, J., Barber, E., & Fuller, R. A. (2016). Health benefits from nature experiences depend on dose. Scientific Reports (Nature Publisher Group), 6, 28551. doi:http://dx.doi.org.ezproxy.slq.qld.gov.au/10.1038/srep28551
3. Zhang, G., Poulsen, D. V., Lygum, V. L., Corazon, S. S., Gramkow, M. C., & Stigsdotter, U. K. (2017). Health-promoting nature access for people with mobility impairments: A systematic review. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 14(7), 703. doi:http://dx.doi.org.ezproxy.slq.qld.gov.au/10.3390/ijerph14070703
4. Soga M, Gaston KJ, Yamaura Y. Gardening is beneficial for health: a meta-analysis. Prev Med Rep 2017; 5: 92–9. doi:10.1016/j.pmedr.2016.11.007 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27981022