December 1, 2020

Art & Lifestyle:

Pax Partnership Seeks Donations for St. Mary’s Caring -

Monday, November 30, 2020

Holidays Events at Museums & in Town -

Friday, November 27, 2020

New Exhibits Greet Visitors to Lighthouse -

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

SMECO Employees Raise Funds for Hospitals -

Monday, November 16, 2020

PTLT: Green Space Is Just What the Doctored Ordered

Green Space

By Phil Hayward

At Patuxent Tidewater Land Trust, we work hard to promote the many benefits of preserving open spaces in Southern Maryland — environmental, economic, historical and aesthetic. Then there’s the mostly unsung benefit of improved mental health.

Just being outside, whether in our parks, walkways or even in our yards can have a significant effect on our health.

As pandemic stay-at-home restrictions ease, taking advantage of this free natural resource may be just what the proverbial doctor ordered.

At the National Recreation and Park Association, researchers have compiled a medicine chest’s worth of benefits of the outdoors that more than ever will help in how our country recovers from the community effects of pandemic. Again, the emphasis is as much on being outside as it is on rigorous activities. Kathleen Wolf, Ph.D., of the University of Washington and the US Forest Service, who compiled her study of studies for the National Recreation and Park Association, had these conclusions on the health benefits of green spaces.

Improved General Mood and Attitude

A study comparing meditative and athletic walking in forest and indoor settings show that in both environments meditative walking generated more positive psychological effects than athletic walking. She reports evidence of lower frustration and increased brain activity, resembling meditation, when moving in green space versus being in retail and commercial areas that have no trees. Also, meditative walking in the forest was the most effective at increasing happiness, defined as the presence of a positive emotional mindset.

Stress Reduction

That stress is a major contributor to ill health is well known. The experience of nature is one antidote to stress. The body’s positive response to experiencing the outdoors is remarkably fast, occurring within minutes. Studies by environmental psychologists show that visual exposure to nature, in the form of trees, grass, and flowers, can effectively reduce stress.

Better Mental Health and Functioning

Experiences of nearby nature contribute to better mental health and improve one’s capacity to be productive, according to Attention Restoration Theory. Modern life often demands sustained focus on projects, and this effort can lead to cognitive overload, bringing on irritability and an inability to function effectively, often with physical symptoms. Views or brief experiences of nearby nature help to restore the mind from mental fatigue, as natural settings provide respite from the highly focused attention needed for most tasks in school or at work.

Improved Mindfulness and Creativity

In our ever-hurried society, there is a greater need for intentional time-outs to be mindful. Studies of mindfulness workshops, held for both mentally healthy and clinically depressed individuals, show benefits of improved mood, cognitive function, and immune response. Nature settings offer sensory inputs that are mentally restorative and can foster ideation.

Building Social Capital

The mere presence of landscape or trees appears to promote community connections. Views of green space from homes are linked to greater perceptions of well-being and neighborhood satisfaction. Public housing residents reported feeling safer in the presence of well-maintained landscaping, including trees and grass.

Greener public housing neighborhoods tend to be safer, with fewer incivilities and less reported crimes.

At Patuxent Tidewater Land Trust, we believe more strongly than ever that preserving the Southern Maryland countryside plays an important role in creating healthier communities.

Those who would like to contribute to or participate in PTLT’s efforts contact the group at SaveLand@PTLT.org or call 301-862-3421.

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