Stress Relief is a Walk in the Park | Greenspace

Feeling stress and fatigue? Take a break and watch relaxing scenery and greenspace based on recent neuroscience stress relief techniques

City parks serve, day in and day out, as the primary greenspace for the majority of Americans –Bruce Babbitts

More than 50 percent of the world’s population now lives in cities. Further concentration in urban areas is underway if we compare to the current 80% ratio for the U.S. population.

Increased chronic stress situations in urban environment

People in urban environment experiences chronic stress situations during their daily commute or work days. Stress triggers ‘fight or flight’ response through the physiological releases of hormones, such as cortisol. It also suppresses cognitive functions by re-directing full attention to the task at hand. Such responses, when frequent and prolonged, lead to general tiredness. As a result, health can be negatively affected unless people are able to develop restorative strategy.

Recent researches focus on natural landscapes to improve well-being in different but possibly interrelated ways: 

  • One approach, the Stress Reduction Theory, emphasizes the physiology outcomes of time spent in nature. An automatic process takes place between sensory stimulation, preconscious emotions and logical thought which creates a meditative mood. In effect, greenspace acts the same way as yoga or spiritual emotion to trigger a relaxation feeling. It opens the door to new perspectives and resets the state of mind to a new level of stress or relaxation.
  • Another approach, the Attention Restoration Theory, suggests that greenspace provide stimulation without the need to maintain concentration, hence restoring the cognitive capacity for attention.
Bird bathing in a puddle of greenspace
Look deep into nature and then you will understand everything better –A. Einstein

The benefits of greenspace

Observations in hospitals tend to confirm the influence of greenspace.  For examples, in one study, surgical patients whose windows faced natural outdoor scenery were discharged sooner. They also requested fewer painkillers than patients whose windows faced a brick wall.  

In another key experiment, artificially stressed people visioning a video of a natural setting had a faster and more complete physiological recovery than those seeing built environments.  Interestingly, meditative walking in the forest increases happiness to a greater degree than walking at the same pace at the gym or viewing virtual nature video.

Some landscapes seem to be more restorative than others.  Large empty green space with long-distance panorama (more than 400 yards/meters), open sky and natural asymmetry are more effective.  The least contemplative settings are small pocket gardens, with geometrical paths à la française and enclosed spaces.  

While natural smells and sounds associated with pleasant memories provide additional contemplative triggers, brightly colored flowers and numerous eye-catching elements are less relaxing. 

Couple on a swing in middle of greenspace
Do not underestimate the value of doing nothing –A, A, Milne
Doing nothing is not boring. It is peace –Milan Kundera

City parks are the primary greenspace for Americans

Just as hospitals need healing spaces, cities need serene oases to compensate for the urban chaos.  Easy access to greenspace, view of nature from windows, and tree-covered plaza contribute to positive emotions. In turn, they provide a higher levels of neighborhood satisfaction and social engagement as well as lower crime rates. 

Furthermore, urban trees help purifying air. They capture carbon emission and reduce fossil fuel consumption though shading in summer and blocking cold wind in winter.  However. trees decay and release carbon gases back into the atmosphere. Still, this is a long process that gives us more time to adapt to climate changes.

Come enjoy a walk in the park with us!

Soundtrack for a walk in greenspace

Soundtrack based on relaxing aerial piano on top of light percussion and singing birds

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