Greenspace and park time as mental health supplement

I am now halfway through my time as a Research Assistant for Dr. Ibes at the Parks Research Lab (PRL). As is evident from my abstract, Alexis, my research partner, and I are conducting research on ecotherapy, which is the study of how nature and greenspace is healing to human mental and physical health. Our goal for the summer is to promote ecotherapy to local health professionals. Our research involves compiling scientific data about nature’s healing effects, so that health professionals can prescribe nature to patients.  We are also compiling information about local parks, so that doctor’s patients can find parks tailored to their needs.

I am potentially pursuing a career in green urban planning, so this research will help me understand the importance of greenspace in relation to human health and happiness. From what we’ve found, nature lowers stress, anxiety and depression, which are common around the world.

I just finished reading The Nature Fix by Florence Williams for my research, and was delighted by what I found. The author had spoken with woman who focused on both the environment and economics, which is also my academic path. She found economics complements the environmental field because policy makers and other world leaders need to understand the monetary benefits of a project before implementation. Thus, this woman advertised the importance on public greenspace by explaining how much money in healthcare costs the government would save by implementing these programs.

Summer Projects

One of my more important projects has been compiling data to create a list of “Nature Dosages.” For example, inhaling certain concentrations of the Lavender essential oil has specific healing effects. I have created a powerpoint to be presented to the general public and health professionals. Also, I have created an infographic to be displayed on William & Mary campus. Having the independence to create my own projects has been rewarding, to say the least.

Also, I have updated the public ParkRx website with free, outdoor and local events in the Greater Williamsburg area. While it can be difficult for people to carve out time to go outside, we are hoping this calendar encourages regular greenspace use. Natural greenspaces are important for mental and physical health, so they should be used!

Because our research focuses on the benefits of greenspace and parks, we often visit and write about local parks. For example, Alexis and I visited the college woods and wrote about our time there on the Parks Research Lab Facebook page to advertise the use of local greenspace. I’ve added a picture from our walk in the College Woods below. Reading about ecotherapy while experiencing its benefits has been an eye-opening journey.

 

Deer in College Woods

A photo from a walk in the College Woods, one of the greatest parks on the William & Mary campus. The trail includes wildlife, lake views, fitness equipment and docks for sitting.

 

Comments

  1. slstruckman says:

    I think what you’re saying definitely has interesting implications for urban design! That would be great if we could implicitly incorporate spaces into an urban matrix that passively improve mental health, while also reducing carbon footprints and fostering an appreciation for the environment. If it turns out to have a consistent and measurable effect, this would be a pretty novel argument to be made for conservation.

  2. I like that your research is aligned so well with your career goals, that’s smart thinking! The concept of this project is very close to my heart as I have always loved being in nature and I do feel that it helps me calm down and center myself. It looks like you are doing great work across several different modalities. You state within this post that “greenspace should be used.” Do you have data on how much it is or isn’t used in the Williamsburg community? I’d be interested to know that as there is so much greenspace just in Colonial Williamsburg!

  3. This was a really interesting post! I do have a question though- how are the local health professionals that you are speaking to responding to your ideas about the healing nature of outdoor spaces. I also wonder how politicians would respond- I would hope that these people would all see the benefits of green space!