AM Inspiration: Green Spaces, Indoors and Out, Give Us RDA of Vitamin G
On our ever-more-populous planet, there may be less elbow room to go around. It's not just any sort of space that contributes to human wellbeing. Green space, in particular, has been found to reduce mental fatigue and aggression, even in such small doses as a few trees and bushes outside an apartment building. (Download the University of Illinois study, pdf).
Actually, even the presence of plants or nature-themed artwork indoors decreases stress levels and can make us into better people. A study by the University of Rochester found that participants exposed to nature-themed slides were more altruistic and more likely to aspire to community and connectedness.
What can we learn from studies about green space and wellbeing? That it's more of a right and a privilege, not a garnish on the plate but an essential source of "Vitamin G." According to the University of Illinois study above, the unequal distribution of green space in city environments denies people who already are short on quiet and space the natural setting required to recharge. It's unfortunate that crime statistics are probably more persuasive than the argument that everyone needs access to a couple trees, at minimum, close by their front door, but if that's what it takes, then urban planners should take note: a city dappled with green is a happier, safer city. Apparently, the presence of trees (or houseplants) seems to cause an increase in "effortful thinking"...that is, it slows down our automatic reactions and makes us more aware of our context, and the multiple levels of connection we share with our environment.
Think a few plants will decrease stress in your office? Participate in a plant swap as a cheap way to acquire new plants.
While looking for poems about healthy urban spaces, I came across this beauty by Jay Wright. I remember hearing Mr. Wright read his poetry when he visited my college: he's truly a great American poet. See if the selection below doesn't make you more embedded in your context.