The Great Green Gathering.
The importance of natural environments has been well evidenced in supporting health and wellbeing, specifically in relation to stress reduction1, restoration2,3 and positive mental health outcomes4. During crisis situations, including the current public health crisis, natural environments are considered vital in supporting mental health and wellbeing through a range of interactions and pathways5,6. The main influential theories postulate that the aesthetic aspects of natural environments are significant in affecting psychological and physiological health. Environments that are considered attractive promote greater positive mood, reduce negative thoughts, lower stress and restore depleted mental capacities7.
Nature has become more important to us during Covid-19. Increases in park usage and activities within green spaces have been widely reported6,8. Park closures as a responsive measure during Covid-19 have sparked criticism for compounding existing health inequalities9,10. However, green spaces are not always proximal or accessible12– one in eight households in Great Britain currently have no access to a private/shared garden and Black people compared to White people are four times as likely to have no access to a private outdoor space13. Ensuring the provision of and accessibility of outdoor natural spaces is crucial in preventing the perpetuation of existing health inequalities10 and establishing alignment with sustainability goals (e.g., SDG 3 and SDG 115). However, alternative forms of nature engagement may also require greater consideration to ensure equitable health outcomes for all population groups.
Indoor nature may have greater relevance, where the average European spends 90% of their time indoors and children and older people can spend up to 100% of time14. Creating a ‘biophilic environment’ i.e., an environment that incorporates natural materials, vegetation and light into the built environment can support wellbeing through the integration of indoor nature. Viewing or tending to indoor plants can facilitate restoration from cognitive and attentional fatigue associated with mental tasks15. Windows also have psychological importance16,17,18, providing sensory stimulation, meaningful contact and important information and connecting the immediacy of our indoor environment to the broader world beyond us19. Window views can provide us with micro-restorative opportunities where brief contact with nature i.e., 10-20 minutes, has been shown to generate positive mood states20 and reduce stress21 and negative mood22. Where real nature is not available or accessible, representational nature, such as nature images or videos, may be a viable alternative. Throughout the Covid-19 crisis, nature challenges facilitated through social media and online interactions have been utilised to support wellbeing during lockdown e.g., National Trust, Mental Health Ireland.
As part of the Great Green Gathering event at Staffordshire University on Saturday the 6th of June, we will be taking part in an online activity exploring indoor nature activities for children alongside tips on how indoor nature can support mental health and wellbeing during the current lockdown. Activities will be streamed on the Great Green Gathering YouTube Channel from 10am to 2pm on Saturday 6 June. We look forward to seeing you there!
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2 Staats, H., Kieviet, A., & Hartig, T. (2003). Where to recover from attentional fatigue: An expectancy-value analysis of environmental preference. Journal of Environmental Psychology, 23(2), 147–157
3 Gidlow, C. J., Jones, M. V., Hurst, G., Masterson, D., Clark-Carter, D., Tarvainen, M. P., … & Nieuwenhuijsen, M. (2016). Where to put your best foot forward: Psycho-physiological responses to walking in natural and urban environments. Journal of environmental psychology, 45, 22-29.
4 Cox, D. T., Shanahan, D. F., Hudson, H. L., Plummer, K. E., Siriwardena, G. M., Fuller, R. A., … & Gaston, K. J. (2017). Doses of neighborhood nature: The benefits for mental health of living with nature. BioScience, 67(2), 147–155.
5 Samuelsson, K., Barthel, S., Colding, J., Macassa, G., & Giusti, M. (2020). Urban nature as a source of resilience during social distancing amidst the coronavirus pandemic.
6 CPRE (2020, May 7). How lockdown has brought us closer to each other – and the countryside. CPRE. Retrieved from https://www.cpre.org.uk/news/how-lockdown-has-brought-us-closer/
7 Ulrich, R. S. (1983). Aesthetic and affective response to natural environment. In Behavior and the natural environment (pp. 85-125). Springer, Boston, MA.
8 Google. (2020a). COVID-19 Community Mobility Reports. Retrieved from https://www.google.com/covid19/mobility/
9 Robers, S., and Hart, C. (2020). To close or not to close? That is the question. Parks as sanctuaries and refuges in times of crisis. Retrieved from https://baynature.org/2020/03/26/to-close-or-not-to-close-that-is-the-question/
10Nesbitt, L., Meitner, M. J., Girling, C., Sheppard, S. R., & Lu, Y. (2019). Who has access to urban vegetation? A spatial analysis of distributional green equity in 10 US cities. Landscape and Urban Planning, 181, 51-79.
11 Duncan, McIntyre & Cutler (2020, April 10). Coronavirus park closures hit BAME and poor Londoners most. The Guardian. Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2020/apr/10/coronavirus-park-closures-hit-bame-and-poor-londoners-most
12 Darcy, P. M., Jones, M., & Gidlow, C. (2019). AFFECTIVE RESPONSES TO NATURAL ENVIRONMENTS. Physical Activity in Natural Settings: Green and Blue Exercise, 124.
13 ONS (2020, May 14). One in eight British households has no garden. Office of National Statistics. Retrieved from https://www.ons.gov.uk/economy/environmentalaccounts/articles/oneineightbritishhouseholdshasnogarden/2020-05-14?hootPostID=b2b740f2d1d59bcf7120bf226074fbcd
14 Galea, K. S., Hurley, J. F., Cowie, H., Shafrir, A. L., Jiménez, A. S., Semple, S., … & Coggins, M. (2013). Using PM2. 5 concentrations to estimate the health burden from solid fuel combustion, with application to Irish and Scottish homes. Environmental Health, 12(1), 50.
15 Toyoda, M., Yokota, Y., Barnes, M., & Kaneko, M. (2020). Potential of a Small Indoor Plant on the Desk for Reducing Office Workers’ Stress. HortTechnology, 30(1), 55-63.
16 Van Esch, E., Minjock, R., Colarelli, S. M., & Hirsch, S. (2019). Office window views: View features trump nature in predicting employee well-being. Journal of environmental psychology, 64, 56-64.
17 Farley, K. M., & Veitch, J. A. (2001). A room with a view: A review of the effects of windows on work and well-being.
18 Ulrich, R. (1984). View through a window may influence recovery. Science, 224(4647), 224-225.
19 Verderber, S. (1986). Dimensions ofperson-window transactionsin the hospital environment. Environment and behavior, 18(4), 450-466.
20 McMahan, E. A., & Estes, D. (2015). The effect of contact with natural environments on positive and negative affect: A meta-analysis. The Journal of Positive Psychology, 10(6), 507-519.
21 Hunter, M. R., Gillespie, B. W., & Chen, S. Y. P. (2019). Urban nature experiences reduce stress in the context of daily life based on salivary biomarkers. Frontiers in psychology, 10, 722.
22 Brooks, A. M., Ottley, K. M., Arbuthnott, K. D., & Sevigny, P. (2017). Nature-related mood effects: Season and type of nature contact. Journal of Environmental Psychology, 54, 91-102.