Having grown up in a small town since the age of 6, I never realised how important having green space near me was until I moved to a city last year. I had to walk for 25 minutes to reach my nearest green space, which was a shock when I was used to having nature all around me. When I lived in the city, I missed being able to go out and walk in the woods, but more than this, I wanted the freedom you feel when you’re in green spaces, away from buildings and cars. Being in these physical spaces helps to give you mental space, to think and feel without as much noise and as many buildings and distractions. Being able to spend a little part of your day in nature will change your mood instantly, it will help you to feel calm and more relaxed (1).
I now live in the same town in which I grew up and even though I see them every day, there is always something lovely about seeing deer, red squirrels, hares, eagles, rabbits and chaffinches around you when you’re outside. Bird song is also known to help relieve stress and refocus your attention (2). You can’t help but smile when watching a red squirrel challenge itself to see how many peanuts it can fit in its mouth or when they chase each other around the trunk of a tree. There is so much joy to be found in seeing and hearing animals in their natural habitats and without green spaces, this becomes more difficult. There is no reason why these moments of happiness in nature shouldn’t be accessible to everyone.
Having nature on your doorstep is even more vital now, with so many people spending all day staring at computer screens when working from home or doing online university courses. Spending all this time connected means we are taking in much more information than we are used to, and it can be really difficult to process this. Being able to spend some time in nature each day, away from email pings and zoom calls, is essential for our mental health and our ability to process information and the events of the day. I know that for me, being able to spend time with my dog in the park or go for a walk in the local nature reserve after university classes is the perfect way to unwind and let my mind relax.
I am much happier now as I am back in my small town with nature on my doorstep, but it should not take living in a town or the countryside for this to happen. There is no reason why every city can’t have open spaces where residents can experience nature and all its benefits.
Written by Morgan Guthrie