During the last year, many of us have found that what we miss the most are the small things that we took for granted. Going for a walk in or sitting in our local or city park, is something we didn’t give much thought to. But when we were no longer able to do this as our parks were closed, you realized how important these are to our health and wellbeing. This year’s theme for Mental Awareness Week was Nature, which encouraged going outside, walking in parks, the countryside and forests and been more aware of the beauty of the nature that is all around. Direct exposure to nature has its own benefits on mental health, reducing stress and increasing happiness. And these effects take place almost immediately. A study by Finnish researchers found that ten minutes in a park or green area could tangibly reduce stress.
Some of my fondest childhood events, were going to the park, with my parents, grandparents or my sister. In fact, many of our childhood memories often happened in parks, as they have a significant impact on the development of children. By providing a free, safe place for families to connect with nature outdoors. Children who spend a significant amount of time in nature also experience better emotional stability and improved mental health. Where, I knew up, I was fortunate to have a small park within walking distance from by home and also some much larger parks, complete with cafes and play areas and sports areas etc in my home city. But many children have no access to a green space.
When I lived in London, sitting in a local park, large or small, and reading a book, or just watching the world around me was my preferred way to spent my days off. These were often, peaceful, contemplative moments, the sun shone, the sky was blue and I was surrounded by plants, flowers and trees. A perfect antidote to the stress of working in London, the hours spend commuting on dirty tubes and life in general. I lived near Hampstead Heath, which although not a park as such, is a safe, green space to walk, sit or swim. I didn’t have my own garden at the time, so It was one of the few ways I get outside and exercise, as I couldn’t afford to go to a gym. Our open spaces are a powerful weapon in the fight against obesity and ill-health, encouraging us to walk more and to play sports, for free or with a low cost. A sedentary lifestyle can cause a number of health problems.
Access to good-quality, well-maintained public spaces is vital to everyone, as more and more parks close, fewer people have gardens. Where I live, any new building projects are mostly apartment buildings which are packed in closely with no green spaces. Has nothing been learnt about housing requirements? Parks and green areas are crucial to the healthy development in our cities and towns, also making a neighbourhood more enjoyable to walk through and should be a major part of any city planning moving forward. Parks and green spaces benefit everyone in the community. As a place where people are able to make connections and meet new friends. As cities grow, more and more animals find themselves without homes. Parks provide habitat for wildlife. Most importantly, they help to improve the quality of the air we breathe. Even a small increase in the number of parks can make a big difference to air pollution. Air pollution is an important health concern that can lead to unpleasant symptoms and long-term health issues. This affects all of us and anything that can be done to repair the damage should be done. So, let’s hope that green spaces like parks, are the future and not the past.
To simply enjoy a green and natural environment, what could be better than a park, these are one of my pleasures, I hope they become yours too.