“A city within a park.” – Toronto’s slogan that appears in many places, including the small park at the end of my street. Thirteen percent of our city is parkland, yet I find it difficult to feel truly connected to nature without making an effort. Maybe because most of my daily walking destinations are along concrete sidewalks. I make a point of finding green space to enjoy regularly, though, because intuitively it feels right, on many levels.
We’re now finding out more about the science of how our bodies and brains respond to nature. David Suzuki includes decreased rumination and anxiety, improved memory and strengthened immune systems amongst the benefits of getting outside. You can check out his 30×30 Nature Challenge for more motivation.
To delve deeper into the research, I recommend reading The Nurture of Nature: Natural Settings. The author, Elizabeth Lines, is a health promotion consultant with Minding Our Bodies, an initiative of the Canadian Mental Health Association and partners. She reports that there is increasing evidence that exposure to nature has direct positive effects on stress and mental health, independent of the established benefits, both direct and indirect, of physical activity.
Lines outlines different theories, including ‘restoration and recovery’ which suggests that “natural settings that once favoured the physical survival of the species still provide health benefits through processes such as attention restoration and psycho-physiological stress recovery.” It’s an engaging and well-written review with a lengthy bibliography (more reading!) and additional resources.
As she concludes, “Green is good for our health, body and mind alike.” I agree. Now let’s get outside.