Better Mental Health through Biodiversity

Aaaah, wilderness.

Fresh air, the smell of pines, the sounds of songbirds chirping...quelling the urge to throw an elbow in Central Park on a sunny Sunday morning.

i-c5e044752566bedc505b3c483ce01aad-iStock_000000684336XSmall.jpgIntuition tells us that time spent outside is good for our mental health, and myriad studies affirm it. Schools that incorporate a nature-based curriculum have higher test scores and fewer discipline problems. Children with ADD are mellower and more focused after outside play. Seeing nature or being outside lowers stress levels, calms heart rates, and diminishes road rage. In the presence of natural light, workers are happier and more productive and students do better on tests.

A new study out of the University of Sheffield contributes to this tome of research a surprising detail: that the extent of psychological benefits people enjoy from a walk in the park correlates directly to the extent of biodiversity in that park. Consciously or subconsciously, participants in the study more or less accurately perceived species richness in urban greenspaces, and felt proportionally restored by it.

All this has important implications for urban planners, especially as the population shifts towards cities. Hardiness and dog-resistance can't be the sole guiding virtues of the urban landscape anymore. We can't just plant some Kentucky bluegrass ringed by rhododendron and call it an urban sanctuary.

People know when they've been cheated.

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