Here are six reasons why meaningful relationships with nature may bolster mental health and civility, and reduce human violence in our world.
1. Green exercise improves psychological health. Findings suggest that priority should be given to developing the use of green exercise as a therapeutic intervention. Among the benefits; are reducing blood pressure and burning calories; and the building of social networks.
2. In some cases, greening neighborhoods may help reduce domestic violence. Those living near trees exhibited fewer aggressive and violent acts against partners. Also play areas in urban neighborhoods with more trees have fewer incidences of violence, possible because the trees draw a higher proportion of responsible adults.
3. Natural playgrounds may decrease bullying. A playground dominated by play structures rather than natural elements, children established their social hierarchy through physical competence; after an open grassy area was planted with shrubs, children engaged in more fantasy play, and their social standing became based less of physical abilities and more on language skills, creativity and inventiveness.
4. Other species help children develop empathy. Children and the elderly are calmed when domestic pets are introduced in therapy situations. Some mental-health practitioners are taking the next step; using pets and natural environments as part of therapy sessions. Bring nature play into your sessions, as it is a resource rich in opportunities for practicing kindness. Introduce them to every form of life and teach respect for it.
5. Great biodiversity in cities can increase social and family bonding. In UK a study showed that the more species that live in a park, the greater the psychological benefits to human beings. Exposure to the natural environment leads people to nurture relationships with fellow human beings, to value community, and to be more generous. People are more caring when they are around nature.
6. More nature in our lives can offset the dangerous psychological impact of climate change. Simply getting people together, working in a caring capacity, with nature, perhaps even intergenerationally, may be as important as the healing of nature itself. In trying to heal the world through restoration, we end up healing ourselves.