Ecopsychology and enjoying green spaces for stress reduction
I was flipping through a magazine earlier and found a little blip about using the outdoors for stress reduction. In the Real Simple March 2015 issue, on page 146, they quote “a 2014 study published in Ecopsychology discovered that group walks in green spaces…lead to less stress and enhanced well-being.” I had read about the importance of greenery and outdoor time for mental health before, but this little blip inspired me to read more about ecopsychology.
I found this web article that gives more information on the field of ecopsychology as an alternative to traditional psychology. The article starts out explaining some of the history of ecopsychology and states that the field is turning towards standard psychological studies and research to learn about the benefits of spending time outside. They claim that “even subtle interactions with nature provide a range of cognitive benefits, including elevated mood, enhanced memory, and decreased stress.” Sounds good to me! Furthermore, they state that “research demonstrates that walking through the city can tax our attention, whereas a park restores our concentration and can even improve our performance on tests of memory.” Initially ecopsychology studies were not as strict as regular psychological studies, but they are using more and more standard scientific research. So far, studies show that green spaces improve moods and mental health, but they don’t 100% prove that manmade structures and technology are bad for our emotional health.
One recent study took a group of stressed people and had them look at either directly at a nature scene, a blank wall, or a television showing the nature scene in real time. The people who looked directly at the nature scene calmed down and relaxed more easily while the people who looked at the TV or the blank wall showed no difference. The TV wasn’t even more relaxing than staring at the wall even though it showed the same nature scene that the other group was watching in person!
The article goes on to share another study that showed people remembered information better when walking through nature instead of through a city. It describes the ways that the idea of ecopsychology is gaining more legitimacy by using stricter, more traditional scientific study. And it’s still showing the health benefits of getting out into nature. I thought that was exciting news! Now that spring is coming to my part of the world, I can’t wait to get out in the woods and de-stress! 🙂
Here are some more articles about the power of green spaces to help with stress reduction: