A shift in our society’s values is occurring thanks to significant research being conducted on the importance of nature and how it provides the building blocks of human wellbeing. Nature’s building blocks are all around us. Unfortunately, we’re not all aware of them – or that we even need them – and therefore aren’t taking advantage of the many benefits they can provide.
How Nature’s Building Blocks Improve Human Wellbeing
In urban settings, many of us fall victim to slow or foggy thinking. We don’t perform as well at work or in school which causes residual problems in our personal lives. The lack of stimulation and connection with nature is having a huge impact on our health and many of us don’t even recognize it. The good news is that, despite the compounding negative effects of our disconnect with nature, our mental and physical wellbeing can be restored by a connection with our natural surroundings.
This connection doesn’t require much time or effort and can cause tremendous improvements in how we perform. Research about environmental psychology and design for human health has shown us some of the many ways in which nature’s building blocks improve our wellbeing.
Nature’s building blocks improve human wellbeing in the following ways:
- Restores cognitive function, memory retention, and learning abilities
- Reduces fatigue and “foggy” thinking
- Increases energy and performance levels
- Provides opportunities for physical activity and exercise
- Reduces signs of Alzheimer’s, depression, anxiety, and dementia
- Improves behavioral function and social skills in children
- Fosters educational development in children
- Reduces symptoms of ADD in children
- Reduces risk of major illnesses like heart disease or diabetes
- Improves recovery rates from surgery and illness
- Enhances social connections and sense of community
- Leads to better decision-making about diet and food choices
- Reduces symptoms of respiratory disorders
Nature’s Building Blocks Found in the City
Even in urban settings we see nature’s building blocks. Some of them occur naturally, and some have them have been carefully designed and integrated by city planners, developers, architects, and landscape designers.
Green spaces are areas found within a city that differ from traditional park spaces. They may be found in front of buildings, in plazas or concords, or even down the center of street or along sidewalks. These are areas that are likely landscaped and maintained by the city or the building owner. The sheer presence of them within a city improves urban health and wellbeing as research has shown that the visual stimulation of nature is enough to reduce blood pressure and restore cognitive function.
While green spaces are typically benefited from in passing or merely through sitting and enjoying, parks are conducive to movement and exercise on account of their design. Parks generally contain long trails, pathways, walkways, or even bike lanes. Typically parks are tree-lined and landscaped with diverse native plant species and flowers. Parks usually also contain playground equipment for children as well as benches and tables for gatherings.
Green infrastructure may include integrated vegetation technology such as green roofs and living walls. Though these aren’t as common as they could be, more and more new developments are being built to include these important design elements. Additionally, we will start to see an increasing number of existing buildings being retrofitted to incorporate integrated vegetation as the technology and incentives improve. One of the major health benefits of green infrastructure is its ability to reduce air pollution levels leading to cleaner air for urban dwellers and workers to enjoy.
“ Empathy, compassion, and giving – which is simply empathy and compassion in action – are the molecular building blocks of our being. With them we expand and thrive; without them we wither.”
– Arianna Huffington