Nature Improves Mental Health during a Pandemic
December 10, 2020
A new study reveals that nature around one’s home plays a key role in mitigating the negative effects of a pandemic on people’s mental health.
A new study by researchers of the University of Tokyo – entitiled, “A room with a green view: the importance of nearby nature for mental health during the pandemic” – reveals that the frequency of greenspace use, such as parks and forests, and the presence of a green window view from within the home are associated with greater levels of life satisfaction, self-esteem and subjective happiness and decreased levels of depression, anxiety, and loneliness.
Social distancing, coupled with the fear of contracting covid, are likely to result in a range of mental health issues, but study findings suggest that nature around the home plays a key role in mitigating them. Moreover, a regular dose of nature has great potential to be used as a “nature-based solution” for better public health at a time when people are under higher levels of stress and are confined within their homes.
Going down to a local park or wooded area and spending a few minutes there helps relieve stress and reduce anxiety. According to the researchers, there are three possible pathways through which proximity to nature promotes better mental health:
The first is the health benefits ofdirect interactions with nature: spending time in nature gives a person access to multi-sensory experiences, such as smelling flowers or listening to birds, which may help improve mental health status.
The second is green space use is likely to encourage people to exercise – exercising is beneficial for mental health, too.
The third is green spaces also provide avenues for members of local communities to interact: but even if social distancing limits these interactions, seeing other people or signaling to others from a distance may already be beneficial for people’s mental health.
“Our results suggest that nearby nature can serve as a buffer in decreasing the adverse impacts of a very stressful event on humans,” said lead author Masashi Soga, PhD, of The University of Tokyo. “Protecting natural environments in urban areas is important not only for the conservation of biodiversity, but also for the protection of human health.”