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Description: Life is not a walk in the park. Have you heard that saying? It is usually taken to suggest that life, at times at least, is not easy, but what if we put it slightly differently by saying that life should include regular walks in the park. What about THAT might be good for you and why? Sure, the exercise would be a good thing. Sure, taking time out of your day to have some down time by walking through a park could also be a healthy way of dealing with stress. But what if, beyond those sorts of things, simply being in nature (in a park) was psychologically good for us? How would we look into THAT question? Well think about it for a moment and then read the article linked below to see how some recent research looked into that question.

Source: Spending Just 20 Minutes in a Park Makes You Happier. Here’s What Else Being Outside Can Do for Your Health, Jamie Ducharme, Time.com.

Date: February 28, 2019

Photo Credit: Time.com/Getty Images

Article Link:  http://time.com/5539942/green-space-health-wellness/

So, being in nature is good for you even if you do not go into nature to exercise (though the two things together are REALLY good for you). In designing their study, the researchers’ whose work was discussed in the linked article, were careful not tell their participants what their study was about. That is important because demand characteristics do not have to consist only of researchers hints and pressure for certain types of responses but sometimes it is simply enough for participants to have a sense of what you are hoping to see in order for them to try and provide you with it. Participants were just asked to spend time in a park and were not even told how much time to spend in the park. The result that ratings of subjective wellbeing increased significantly in 60% of partivpants even if they did not exercise while in the park suggest that simply being in a greenspace is enough to provide a bump in wellbeing. The data supporting this sort of finding is strong enough now that physicians in some jurisdictions are prescribing parks to quite a few of their patients with a variety of conditions. So, self-prescribe some park the next time you are feeling a bit stressed (or find an indoor green opportunity for cold winter high stress days).

Questions for Discussion:

  1. Why did the researchers NOT tell their research participants exactly what their study was looking at?
  2. Why did the researchers NOT tell their participants what to do in the park?
  3. Why might it be that simply being in nature is good for us?

References (Read Further):

Park, B. J., Tsunetsugu, Y., Kasetani, T., Kagawa, T., & Miyazaki, Y. (2010). The physiological effects of Shinrin-yoku (taking in the forest atmosphere or forest bathing): evidence from field experiments in 24 forests across Japan. Environmental health and preventive medicine, 15(1), 18. https://environhealthprevmed.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1007/s12199-009-0086-9

Li, Q. (2010). Effect of forest bathing trips on human immune function. Environmental health and preventive medicine, 15(1), 9. https://environhealthprevmed.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1007/s12199-008-0068-3

Houlden, V., Weich, S., & Jarvis, S. (2017). A cross-sectional analysis of green space prevalence and mental wellbeing in England. BMC public health, 17(1), 460. https://bmcpublichealth.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12889-017-4401-x

Yuen, H. K., & Jenkins, G. R. (2019). Factors associated with changes in subjective well-being immediately after urban park visit. International journal of environmental health research, 1-12.

South, E. C., Hohl, B. C., Kondo, M. C., MacDonald, J. M., & Branas, C. C. (2018). Effect of greening vacant land on mental health of community-dwelling adults: a cluster randomized trial. JAMA network open, 1(3), e180298-e180298. https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamanetworkopen/fullarticle/2688343?utm_source=silverchair&utm_campaign=jama_network&utm_content=weekly_highlights&cmp=1&utm_medium=email

Thompson Coon, J., Boddy, K., Stein, K., Whear, R., Barton, J., & Depledge, M. H. (2011). Does participating in physical activity in outdoor natural environments have a greater effect on physical and mental wellbeing than physical activity indoors? A systematic review. Environmental science & technology, 45(5), 1761-1772. https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/a75c/4ac7146c9bf06cd3d6e4a7807050bc1fe7d0.pdf

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