There are few amongst us who haven’t wondered how we could make positive, practical, and ‘doable’ changes in our lives for the sole benefit of our mental wellbeing. That might be a job change, moving house, getting a pet?
But maybe it doesn’t have to be anything so drastic but something far simpler, available, and so very natural.
How many of us appreciate the very real effects that the ‘Green spaces’ around us, or a short walk away can be? What starts out as being a walk for the dog actually turns out to become a form of escapism from the endless, confusing, and disturbing world news, which only fuels anxieties and stress levels.
Because of the 2020 and 2021 national lockdowns it feels like we have all been on hundreds of walks, discovering so many local gems. Whether it be by a river, in a country park, finding a hidden public footpath that hugs closely to an orchard or vineyard the effects have been the same, a sense of calm, wellbeing, being connected and being so very lucky.
With not much else going on, it gave us a reason to capture these moments in photographs and create an opportunity to stop, to listen, to smell and to see. You can’t help but be engaged with the subject of your photo. You see light & shade, shapes, and shadows and just for a stolen moment, your mind, heart and your body rest and recover.
You can hear a horse in an adjoining field, birds flying from bough to branch, the sound of dogs barking in the distance, you can hear everything whilst hearing silence.
The seasons bring such contrast, the leaves falling in the autumn, the crisp sound as you walk on the snow in winter, the gentle warmth of the sun and the associated smells that brings. The weather is far from a negative aspect, the sound of the rain can be soothing yet exciting whether it’s a light shower or a downpour. We are constantly delighted with the scenes that lay before us and we see the changes as the seasons move on and share their new wonders and leave us feeling ‘awake’. This also gives us time to use our senses to gain perspective, to rationalise, taking time to rest awhile and to breathe in our lives.
There have been many studies to establish just how being in ‘Green spaces’ outside or inside affects us. After just 20 minutes of being in either environment very real positive effects can be found in our mental and physical wellbeing. When our mind and bodies are on high alert because of stress, life overload, or other reasons the immune system is compromised, this is because the inflammatory system becomes agitated and hypersensitive which affects its ability to fight infection and viruses. By reducing the stress, you enable your immune system to recover and our natural ‘killer cells’ increase both in strength and activity so you’re in effect creating your own army within. Lowering your stress levels allows the heart rate to slow down and the blood pressure to lower.
Whether you live in a city, a busy town or in the countryside, finding time to ‘let go’ in a green space seems like a ‘no brainer’ to me when you look at the positives to be derived from it. A tree lined street with new shoots just waiting to come to life, or the pink blossom already in its glory, so much to offer in its simplicity and beauty.
Gardening at a level that suits your situation is great, a window box, an allotment or something bigger will be perfect to get your hands into the soil which contains micro bacteria. This increases your serotonin ‘happy’ levels, as does watching, swimming in, or listening to moving water as it increases the negative ions in the air which once they reach our bloodstream, produce biochemical reactions that increases serotonin that in turn alleviates depression, stress and boosts our energy levels. The array of smells that are to be had are limitless, oils and scents from the trees such as Pine, Cedar, the quaint essential smell of Lavender boost our killer cells and strengthens our Army within!
As humans we have an innate desire to be connected to nature, it’s called Biophilia, it reduces stress, improves cognitive function,and can enhance mood and creativity. These and other outcomes can increase health and wellbeing, as well as productivity. Even just looking at a photograph or a picture of nature reduces stress levels and shifts the brain into a different processing mode making us feel more relaxed.
Many workplaces have realised the benefits to both the employees and the success of the business or organisation by adapting the office/building space to incorporate plants in multiple locations. Plants remove gases that are harmful to humans from the environment, such as carbon dioxide, Benzene and formaldehyde leaving the air cleaner for humans to breathe. Plants within the workplace reduce stress levels, by putting large pot plants in multiple locations at the edges and corners of the office, it has a distracting effect on background noise.
It is estimated that if each person in an office could see a plant from their desk it would improve their productivity, concentration & mood. People would be more psychologically engaged and work more effectively. Staff sickness can also be improved due to the effects of combating what is known as ‘Sick building Syndrome’ producing positive feelings in the environment, more pleasant surroundings and natural elements to make you feel good.
So, whether it’s at home, work or in the great outdoors, plants are good for us all, they make us happy.