Many studies have looked at the impact a green environment may have on our physical and emotional health. The terminology “green” here actually means true nature this time. Yes, green grass, green plants, and green trees – the real deal. Various studies have found that people who get outside, walk through nature, or are surrounded by a green environment including trees, grass, and plants, actually experience reductions in stress, depression, anxiety, and blood pressure, and increases in immune function. For example, a 2010 study in Japan found that people who walked through the forest for a few hours were able to lower their blood pressure, heart rate, and cortisol, a stress-hormone, levels. 1
With this re-occurring idea that nature can sooth the soul in more ways than one, how does a person who lives in a concrete jungle get out and enjoy the greenery? Here are some suggestions for the city-dwellers to truly LIVE GREEN.
#1. Visit your local farmers market. By walking through the many booths filled with luscious green, red, purple, and orange fruits and vegetables, one can truly be in nature. I personally enjoy touching, smelling, and even tasting (as long as the farmer permits) the various produce items. This can be one form of relaxing in nature while getting some goods to cook and eat. Multi-tasking at its finest.
#2. Take a mini day break and go for a quick walk outside. Being able to breathe in fresh air and feel some sun on the face can also be a form of being in nature while de-stressing. Optimal self-care here.
#3. Lunch on the rooftop garden in your building? Many sky rises and buildings now have rooftop gardens or patios. If your building in particular doesn’t have one, the one next store may. Check out Rooftop Garden’s website to find a rooftop garden near you. It can become the new “green” spot for lunch or that needed quick get-away from work.
#4. Visit a local park. So many hidden mini-parks are located throughout all cities. Yes: every city has its big, famous park, such as Central Park in New York City or Golden Gate Park in San Francisco. However, all cities also have little areas which contain grass, trees, and plants. Look them up. Check them out. Maybe even plan a picnic on a nice day. Dog-lover websites will also have a great listing of local parks to bring your furry friends to.
#5. Take the kids to a playground which has grass. Studies show that kids who play in playgrounds in a green environment versus on asphalt have a higher attention span. By playing at the playground, parents can spend quality time with their kids while enjoying nature and getting a little exercise in, also.
Remember: true health includes the whole package: both physical and emotional. So enjoy your sunshine and don’t forget to hug a tree.
By Sarah Koszyk, MA, RDN
1. Tsunetsugu, Y., Park, BJ., Miyazaki, Y. (2010). Trends in research related to “Shinrin-yoku” (taking in the forest atmosphere or forest bathing) in Japan. Environmental Health Prevention and Medicine. 15 (1): pg. 27-37.