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The Impact of Green Spaces on Our Mental Wellbeing

Green spaces help protect our mental health. They help us to bounce back from stress, reduce anxiety, ease depression and provide a valuable opportunity to escape from the worries of day to day life.

The environments we live in shape our lives and our sense of wellbeing. Having somewhere safe to live, a reliable and sufficient income and good support networks around us make a vital contribution to our lives. The importance of our surroundings also extends to our natural environment. The COVID-19 pandemic has brought into sharp focus how much we value and rely on green spaces to support our health and wellbeing.

It’s not just our mental health that benefits, we gain physically too. People with better access to greenspace tend to enjoy a wide range of health benefits as well such as lower levels of cardiovascular disease and maintaining a healthier weight.

Access to good quality green spaces such as parks, woodlands, and fields varies greatly depending on where we live. A growing number of people currently live in urban environments and have limited access to these types of spaces. This could potentially worsen any existing mental or physical health problems and place an even greater strain on individuals and their families.

Population growth, urbanisation and the competing demands for land use and budgetary constraints, are putting local, accessible greenspace under threat. Therefore, for the sake of our citizens, city planners and developers must take green space and sustainability into consideration when outlining their projects.

 

Green space and mental health – the connection

Stepping outside for a breath of fresh air or having a relaxing stroll in a local park is a common way we break away from stress, hit that reset button and leave us feeling happier.

But this isn’t simply a matter of taste or personal habit.

A growing body of research suggests that green spaces can help reduce stress, increase social interaction, encourage physical exercise, improve concentration and productivity and boost overall mental health for all members of the family.

Although scientists still aren’t entirely sure why this happens, it appears that time spent in nature activates our parasympathetic nervous system, helping to calm the body and mind.

This could be because humans evolved to spend their time in nature and did so until just a few thousand years ago when the shift to a more urban environment started. Even then, cities were nothing like the sprawling metropolises that they are today, yet our bodies and minds haven’t kept up with the changes.

 

Green space – the benefits

Access to green space is linked to health and wellbeing in several ways. These include:

  • The promotion of healthy behaviours, such as engaging in physical activity and other recreation.
  • Improvement of social contacts; it gives people a sense of familiarity and belonging. Cleaner, greener communities are places where people wish to live and work and can promote social contact and connectivity.
  • Reducing isolation, loneliness and encouraging a connection to nature.
  • Supporting the development of skills and capabilities, particularly for young people; there is emerging evidence that spending time in greenspace is improving motor skills, better academic performance, and increased concentration.
  • Helping to reduce exposure to air pollution, the urban heat island effect, and mitigation of excessive noise and reduced flood risk, all of which can impair both mental and physical health.

Creating a greener future

The responsibility lies on the shoulders of developers to incorporate safe, welcoming and sustainable green spaces that protect the mental health of urban citizens. Additionally, these green spaces can promote UK government sustainability efforts, improving air quality, keeping cities cool and reducing carbon footprints.

Green spaces within new developments need to balance the two, focussing on areas such as accessibility, aesthetics and use as we have with our new Curzon Wharf development. We have included features such sky terraces, winter gardens, nature playgrounds and tree-lined piazzas whilst also supporting biodiversity to make a comfortable space for residents that promotes optimal health. This will provide a significant scheme of green urban infrastructure and external amenity, in correlation with the principles of Birmingham City Council’s ‘Our Future City Plan.’

 

Summary

By including green spaces in their city and town design plans, developers can help support the mental health of citizens whilst providing a sustainable space for the future.

Find out more about our Curzon Wharf development and other exciting urban developments, here.

 

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