Photo of happy person in garden

Urban Wild Gardening is Good for Your Mental and Emotional Health

Society is beginning to wake up to the fact that nature really helps with our emotional and mental wellbeing, and science is backing it up. Research is also showing that having just a small patch of wild nature around you, such as in a wild urban garden, brings the same benefit.

The word ecopsychology was coined in 1992 to describe the study of the mental health benefits of being in nature, and as the years pass it’s being taken more and more seriously. Richard Louv coined the term nature-deficit disorder in 2005 and identified it as a cause of many ills including  depression, hyper-stress and lack of creativity.

Our minds are affected by the modern world, but the vast majority of our evolutionary development took place in a completely  natural world. Our unnatural modern setting can therefore produce a big disconnect with elements we really need for our wellbeing, elements we evolved to need around us and to function well in. From an evolutionary point of view we’re still basically outdoor animals. Being in touch with the wild can reawaken those ancient instincts and intuitions which we needed to survive in prehistoric times – to get something to eat and to avoid being eaten, and to experience a meaningful, satisfying and joyful life in the presence of wildness. This is why wilding and rewilding of the spaces close to where we live near can be so powerful and transformative.

Today many different authorities – including conservation organisations, healthcare professionals and even national governments – are going further and recognising that connecting with nature and spending time in the natural environment is a significant medical resource that can be methodically tapped into, in order to help with mental ailments as well as to top up emotional wellbeing. David Strayer at the department of psychology, University of Utah shows from research there that “There are increased benefits from spending more time in nature and leaving technology behind – such as enhanced memory, better problem solving ability, greater creativity, lower levels of stress, and higher feelings of positive wellbeing.”

Walking in nature is now prescribed by doctors in UK’s NHS for conditions ranging from anxiety and depression to diabetes and high blood pressure, even if it’s just taking a walk in a local park. A recent study by Exeter University has shown that just two hours of time spent in nature per week produces measurable benefits of this sort; that’s just 15 to 20 minutes a day. It’s also becoming recognised that there will be material  gains too at the macro level: less cost to health services, fewer medications needed, less time taken off work from sickness.

A study survey of 26,000 people in 26 European countries published by the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research is even more interesting in the context of the potential for gardens. It demonstrates that being in the vicinity of  bird diversity brings quantifiable increases in happiness and that conservation is as important to human wellbeing as financial security. It found that the happiest Europeans are those living in near-natural surroundings that are home to diverse wild creatures: in other words, a wilded garden. It further concluded that enticing fourteen additional bird species to your environment brings the individual as much satisfaction as earning an additional $150 per month. What’s not to like about that?

If you live in the city, it’s going to be difficult to get into nature every day – unless you have it there in your nicely wilded urban garden. Rachel Kaplan of the department of Psychology at the University of Michigan reports: “People don’t have to head for the woods to enjoy nature’s restorative effects. Even a glimpse of nature from a window helps.” Let’s get wilding.

 

Urban Wild Gardening is Good for Your Mental and Emotional Health

Society is beginning to wake up to the fact that nature really helps with our emotional and mental wellbeing, and science is backing it up. Research is also showing that having just a small patch of wild nature around you, such as in a wild urban garden, brings the same benefit.

The word ecopsychology was coined in 1992 to describe the study of the mental health benefits of being in nature, and as the years pass it’s being taken more and more seriously. Richard Louv coined the term nature-deficit disorder in 2005 and identified it as a cause of many ills including  depression, hyper-stress and lack of creativity.

Our minds are affected by the modern world, but the vast majority of our evolutionary development took place in a completely  natural world. Our unnatural modern setting can therefore produce a big disconnect with elements we really need for our wellbeing, elements we evolved to need around us and to function well in. From an evolutionary point of view we’re still basically outdoor animals. Being in touch with the wild can reawaken those ancient instincts and intuitions which we needed to survive in prehistoric times – to get something to eat and to avoid being eaten, and to experience a meaningful, satisfying and joyful life in the presence of wildness. This is why wilding and rewilding of the spaces close to where we live near can be so powerful and transformative.

Today many different authorities – including conservation organisations, healthcare professionals and even national governments – are going further and recognising that connecting with nature and spending time in the natural environment is a significant medical resource that can be methodically tapped into, in order to help with mental ailments as well as to top up emotional wellbeing. David Strayer at the department of psychology, University of Utah shows from research there that “There are increased benefits from spending more time in nature and leaving technology behind – such as enhanced memory, better problem solving ability, greater creativity, lower levels of stress, and higher feelings of positive wellbeing.”

Walking in nature is now prescribed by doctors in UK’s NHS for conditions ranging from anxiety and depression to diabetes and high blood pressure, even if it’s just taking a walk in a local park. A recent study by Exeter University has shown that just two hours of time spent in nature per week produces measurable benefits of this sort; that’s just 15 to 20 minutes a day. It’s also becoming recognised that there will be material  gains too at the macro level: less cost to health services, fewer medications needed, less time taken off work from sickness.

A study survey of 26,000 people in 26 European countries published by the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research is even more interesting in the context of the potential for gardens. It demonstrates that being in the vicinity of  bird diversity brings quantifiable increases in happiness and that conservation is as important to human wellbeing as financial security. It found that the happiest Europeans are those living in near-natural surroundings that are home to diverse wild creatures: in other words, a wilded garden. It further concluded that enticing fourteen additional bird species to your environment brings the individual as much satisfaction as earning an additional $150 per month. What’s not to like about that?

If you live in the city, it’s going to be difficult to get into nature every day – unless you have it there in your nicely wilded urban garden. Rachel Kaplan of the department of Psychology at the University of Michigan reports: “People don’t have to head for the woods to enjoy nature’s restorative effects. Even a glimpse of nature from a window helps.” Let’s get wilding.

 

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