The Greening Of The Commons

New research shows green space we can all use boosts our health…


Published:

The places we all share – the commons – vary in many ways. Some are busy places; some are quiet. Some are designed as pass-through places; others invite us to stay awhile. They all are important to our lives. Now new research shows that green, natural spaces — including playgrounds, learning environments, neighborhoods, even exercise environments — offer particular health and well-being benefits. 

Workplaces 

A study published in a recent issue of the Landscape Research journal presented some of the benefits of greenspace in or near working environments. The site of this particular study was a science complex on the edge of a city. Employees had access to a natural area near their workplace and frequently went there during their breaks. When interviewed, these employees described a range of benefits they received from their outdoor breaks and linked these benefits with the naturalness of the environment. They said that nature helped them feel calm and relaxed, that it restored their ability to focus, and that it helped them feel good about themselves. Their comments were consistent with other research studies indicating that nature relieves anxiety and fosters a sense of well-being.

Schoolgrounds 

Nature-based learning is gaining momentum in schools around the country. Many schools are developing gardens and using them to engage students in more meaningful and interesting learning activities. While garden-based activities are often used for science, other areas of learning are addressed as well. Consider the Desert Oasis Teaching garden on the grounds of the Albuquerque Academy, for example. Math teachers use the garden for measuring, estimating, and charting. History teachers link current gardening practices with Native American customs and ancient irrigation practices. Literature teachers take the students to the garden for reading and writing poetry and developing personal essays. 

Some schools are also adding more trees, bushes, and grasses as a way to boost grades, even if students aren’t involved in the planting and tending of the grounds. Several studies have shown that just seeing greenery from school buildings can foster academic achievement. Viewing nature, it was shown, helps students deal with attention fatigue and stress. This proved to be true for both high school and elementary-age students

Playspaces 

Another trend generating a lot of interest relates to natural playspaces for children. A natural playspace differs from a typical playground in that natural elements (such as logs, rocks, bushes, and gardens) are more dominant than manufactured equipment (such as swings and slides) in the areas where children play. Kids like these natural playspaces and benefit in numerous ways. Their play is more creative and cooperative, and they have more opportunities for exploration and discovery. Natural playspaces are also better than traditional playgrounds in accommodating different ages, abilities, and interests. 

Natural playspaces are being developed in all types of settings across the country – child care centers, schools, city parks, nature centers, zoos, and even backyards. In some places, it’s not a matter of “developing” a natural playspace – as the natural elements are already there. What changes are the rules. Restrictions which kept children from playing with the natural materials were removed. This happened recently at the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, where national park rules prohibited visitors from disturbing natural features (plants, rocks, sand, etc.). Prior to the change in rules, children’s activities were generally limited to hiking on the trails, looking at Visitor Center exhibits, having picnics, and walking on the beach. Some nature play enthusiasts, however, made a point of getting these rules changed. The Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore now has a dedicated section -- called The Play Zone -- where children are free to dig in the sand, move stones about, and use drift wood for making forts.

Exercise Environments

You may have heard of “forest bathing” or “Shinrin-yoku” -- a practice originating in Japan in the early 1980s. Headlines in The Washington Post called this practice the “latest fitness trend to hit U.S.” Forest bathing isn’t really about bathing – it’s a kind of soaking, but not in a tub of water. You soak in all the greenery around you. Or maybe it’s more like a shower of greenery that calms and refreshes you. It also lowers stress levels, boosts the immune system, and improves physical fitness.

But you don’t have to go to a forest to get the benefits of green exercise. You just need a more natural environment in built-up areas. One study compared the benefits of walking in a natural area with a non-natural area. Natural-area walking led to more positive emotions, greater mental acuity, and reduced anxiety. Some doctors are now actually prescribing time in nature as a type of preventive medicine. Exercising in green environments, they realize, can help people achieve healthier levels of blood pressure, increased vitality and energy, a sense of well-being, positive emotions, and higher motivation to exercise. 

Neighborhood Greenery   

Just the presence of nature around the home and in the neighborhood is known to offer special benefits to children. Babies born to mothers with greater exposure to greenery tend to be healthier than babies born to mothers without nearby nature. And children faced with trauma and stress during their early years of life, tend to show more resilience and cope better when they have access to nature around their home. Nature doesn’t remove the stress, but it does serve as a buffer, reducing some of the negative impact on their lives. 

There’s plenty of research today attesting to the multiple benefits of nature for humans. People with access to nearby nature tend to be healthier overall than other individuals and are more satisfied with their home, their job, and life in general. The fact that we don’t all have equal access to nearby nature becomes an issue for anyone concerned about a fair and healthy society.  

Many see this as an environmental justice issue and are addressing the concern by looking for creative ways to make nearby nature a reality for everyone. Environmental justice efforts have traditionally focused on exposure to environmental risks, such as contaminated soil or chemical toxins in the air and water. Today, there’s a growing understanding that environmental justice also requires equitable distribution of greenspaces. Based on the idea that everyone has the right to a healthy environment, efforts to green the commons warrant both applause and support.

This article was republished from On The Commons.

See also:
Celebrate The Urban Wildnerness Right Where You Live
Outdoor Preschools Bring Affordable Education to Parks

Edit Module
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module Edit ModuleShow Tags

Daily Astrology

December 5, 2019

The day feels sluggish early on, thanks to a void of course Pisces Moon. Swirling emotional undercurrents fail to motivate or aid concentration but free-associating ideas can lead to a creative new approach. Ride the flow of mental images as best you…
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Alternative Health Directory

Browse all listings »

Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Calendar

December 2019

Join us for a day of holiday shopping while enjoying angel card readings, animal communication, mediumship, palmistry, and other energy sessions from some of New England's top intuitive and...

Cost: $5

Where:
Castleton Event Center
58 Enterprise Dr
Windham, NH  03087
View map »


Website »

More information

“Bringing Energy into Matter” Learn basics of Tachyon, Zero Point Energy and Quantum Physics Tachyonized products and healing tools for purchase Participate in a seeing...

Cost: Free (preregistration is required)

Where:
The Sanctuary for Celestial Empowerment
10 Grassmere Avenue
Suite #300
West Hartford, CT  06110
View map »


Sponsor: Psychotherapy Healing Services, LLC
Telephone: 860-798-6176
Contact Name: Celeste E. Mattingly, LCSW
Website »

More information

Come shine with us! Join us in harmony and in our goal to bring the light of Spiritualism forward to all those who are searching.

Where:
VFW Post 2597
775 Boston Rd, Rt 3A
Billerica, MA
View map »


Sponsor: The Spiritualist Fellowship Church Of New England
Website »

More information

A beautiful collection of messages from Jeshua Ben Joseph (Jesus) that will transform your life, as it did his. Coming together to study these teachings, to ponder, to savor, to deepen our...

Cost: $25 per class

Where:
Heart and Soul Holistic Healing Center
130 Massapoag Avenue
Sharon, MA  02067
View map »


Sponsor: Heart and Soul Holistic
Telephone: 781-258-9942
Contact Name: Barbara Ann Strassman
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

With Pata Suyemoto, PhD Most of the time treatment plans are implemented in a top down fashion, where doctors or teams of practitioners determine what is best for the client and the steps that...

Cost: $0-$30

Where:
CHA Central Street Care Center
26 Central Street
Community Room (2nd floor)
Somerville, MA  02143
View map »


Sponsor: Center for Mindfulness & Compassion
Telephone: 617-591-6132
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Free Evidence-Based Holistic Health Education Program at Wilbraham Senior Center The H.E.A.R.T. Program® (Health Empowerment and Real Transformation), created and instructed by Michelle...

Cost: Free

Where:
Wilbraham Senior Center
45 Post Office Park, #4502
Wilbraham, MA  01095
View map »


Sponsor: Harmony Way
Telephone: 413-636-2475
Contact Name: Michelle Caron
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Join Vesta for a free Divorce Resource Night to gather information about all aspects of the divorce process. About this Event: Are you separated, divorced, or in the process of divorce?...

Cost: Free

Where:
Fairway Independent Mortgage Corporation
180 Wells Avenue
Suite 300
Newton, MA  02459
View map »


Sponsor: Vesta: Redefining Divorce
Telephone: 508-744-6014
Contact Name: Deanna Coyle
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

At our free Divorce Boot Camp, you will learn how to manage the legal, financial, real estate, mortgage and personal issues related to divorce. About this event: Are you considering, going...

Cost: Free

Where:
Skylark Law & Mediation, PC
9 Main Street
Southborough, MA  01772
View map »


Sponsor: Vesta: Redefining Divorce
Telephone: 508-744-6014
Contact Name: Deanna Coyle
Website »

More information

Join us for two talks with bestselling integrative wellness expert Laura Lagano! Hemp-Derived CBD: Integrating with Your Healing Modality Event for Wellness Practitioners: 2:30–4 pm...

Cost: $29

Where:
Bridge Healing Arts Center
304 Main Street
Farmington, CT  06032
View map »


Sponsor: Bridge Healing Arts Center
Telephone: 860-404-2578
Contact Name: Courtney Yost
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Four week series for girls ages 11 and up with Leigh Sloss This series of classes will focus on some of the most effective yoga and mindfulness skills for reducing stress and anxiety.  In a...

Cost: Series: $75; Drop in rate $20

Where:
YogaLife Institute of NH
6 Chestnut Street
Lower Level
Exeter, NH  03833
View map »


Sponsor: YogaLife Institute of NH
Contact Name: Alice Bentley
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Faust Family Constellations presents The Constellation Approach™ Seminar with Jamy and Peter Faust, facilitators. All issues with family lineage, career, relationship, illness and...

Where:
Belmont, MA


Sponsor: Faust Family Constellations
Website »

More information

Learn to overcome spinal tensions through therapeutic postures, designed to decompress your spine and relieve pain. Taught by a certified yoga therapist, classes bring you through poses...

Cost: 5/$50

Where:
Bliss Through Yoga
484 Bedford St
East Bridgewater, MA  02333
View map »


Telephone: 508-331-3564
Contact Name: Janice O'Brien
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module Edit ModuleShow Tags