Independence Blue Cross #mindPHL Wellness Corner: Enjoying the Great Outdoors
Nature and green spaces have the power to heal and inspire.
Discover the benefits of connecting with green, growing spaces.
“We have an intrinsic connection to nature,” says Pennsylvania Horticultural Society Chief of Healthy Neighborhoods Julianne Schrader Ortega. “Just being outside and listening to birds or enjoying the scents of herbs and flowers – even in a busy urban environment – can have a powerful effect on your mental health.”
Nature changes the way the brain works and reduces blood flow to the parts of the brain responsible for negative thoughts. A 2019 Penn Medicine study showed up to a 41% decrease in feelings of depression and anxiety when people experience green spaces. You don’t have to take a big trip or visit a national park to get the benefits of nature and being outdoors. Even a short walk around your neighborhood or in a local park can boost your mood.
Gardening, whether it’s tending a houseplant, planting a window box, or joining a community garden, can also improve emotional well-being. “Watching things grow just helps us feel better,” says Ortega.
In a community garden setting, you also have the opportunity to build the kinds of strong social connections that can protect your mental health. “When you are able to grow and share food, you really get a sense that you’re contributing to your community,” she adds, “and a better diet is also important to mental health.”
Ready to get outside? Explore Philadelphia’s parks, trails and green spaces with the NaturePHL map. The Pennsylvania Horticultural Society’s gardener’s blog has everything from educational resources to posts about gardening and health and well-being, and if you’re ready to get involved, check out its map of community gardens.