Connecting with Nature in a City

Why is connecting with nature when living in a city important?

Nature is all around us, yet many people forget to or don’t know how to connect with nature. Being in nature has been shown to enhance health and overall wellbeing partly by decreasing health issues often associated with a sedentary lifestyle (Fuller, Bush, Lin, & Gaston, 2015). Spending more time in nature is related to lower rates of diabetes and obesity as well as anxiety and depression. According to the World Health Organization, around 70% of the world’s human population will be living in cities within the next 30 years (2013). Living in an urban environment could reduce access to nature, and residents may not receive the benefits of nature unless they make nature a part of their daily lives (Fuller, Bush, Lin, & Gaston, 2015). With so many of us living in cities, it’s important to find ways to connect with nature so we can reap the benefits nature has to offer us. 

What are some ways to connect with nature while living in a city?

Walking Trails

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Vance, S. (n.d.). [Chicago Lakefront]. Retrieved from https://www.architecture.org/news/chicagos-playscapes/biking-and-chicagos-lakefront-trail/

Walking outside can offer great sights, but it also has many health benefits including improved concentration, reduced stress and anxiety, and increased levels of Vitamin D. Taking in natural scenery can improve brain functioning like concentration and memory. It can also lower heart rate and produce endorphins which aid in lowering stress and anxiety as well as depression. Vitamin D deficiency is extremely common especially in the winter months and walking outside is an easy way to get some sunlight and increase Vitamin D levels. An example of a great walking trail to try it out is the Chicago Lakefront Trail if you’re living in the Chicagoland area. The trail provides great views of the water as it goes along the edge of Lake Michigan.

Botanical Gardens

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[United States Botanic Garden]. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.usbg.gov/national-garden

Another great outdoor space to explore in the city you live in is a botanical garden. If you’ve been feeling overwhelmed or stressed, visiting one of these gardens is a great way to clear your mind, reduce stress, and connect with nature. It’s a great way to engage your senses by smelling the sweet flowers, seeing the bright colors, feeling the wind on your skin, etc which is a commonly used technique to help quiet anxiety and a restless mind. Taking a walk in an outdoor botanical garden is another great way to up your Vitamin D levels, even if it’s only for 10-15 minutes. Sometimes there may be indoor gardens that can be great to visit in the winter. An example of a great botanical garden located within a busy city is the United States Botanic Garden in Washington, D.C.

Houseplants

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Houseplants]. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.architecturaldigest.com/story/best-plant-care-tips

Houseplants are an easy way to add some color and life to your home, but they also have some amazing health benefits. Plants can help purify the air by filtering pollutants which can reduce the risk of respiratory infection (Fuller, Bush, Lin, & Gaston, 2015). Plants have also proven to lift your mood by making you feel better and decreasing worrying (DerSarkissian, 2019). Taking care of and tending to your houseplants can be very therapeutic which helps reduce stress and improve concentration. Some easy beginner plants that will help purify and filter the air in your home are English Ivy, Snake Plants, and Spider Plants. Make sure to choose plants that are safe for pets and children if you have a little one or a furry friend running around the house!

Community Gardens

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Henderson, J. (n.d.). [West Side Community Garden]. Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/West_Side_Community_Garden

Don’t have a backyard to garden in or working with limited space in your home? No problem! Community gardens are a great way to interact with nature and can be found in cities all over the country. You can volunteer at community gardens and help maintain the greenery while taking in the health benefits of being in nature. Gardening can build strength and exercises cognitive functioning in the brain to protect your memory all while helping reduce stress (Stanborough, 2020). If you have just moved to a new city or have been living there your whole life, this is a great way to support and connect with your community. An example of a community garden located in a city is West Side Community Garden which is located in the Upper West Side of Manhattan in New York City.

Living in a city can make connecting with nature feel a bit inaccessible but there are still plenty of ways you can get your daily dose of nature while living in an urban area! Best wishes!

Get Involved

Take pictures of you interacting with nature in the city you live in and tag @hinproject and use #GetOutside and #HumansInNature!

Learn More with These Sources!

DerSarkissian, C. (2019, September 03). Health benefits of houseplants. Retrieved February 22, 2021, from https://www.webmd.com/a-to-z-guides/ss/slideshow-health-benefits-houseplants

Hartig T, Staats H. 2006. The need for psychological restoration as a determinant of environmental preferences. Journal of Environmental Psychology 26: 215–226

SHANAHAN, D., FULLER, R., BUSH, R., LIN, B., & GASTON, K. (2015). The Health Benefits of Urban Nature: How Much Do We Need? BioScience, 65(5), 476-485. https://doi.org/10.1093/biosci/biv032

Stanborough, R. J. (2020, June 17). Seed, Soil, and Sun: Discovering the Many Healthful Benefits of Gardening. Retrieved February 22, 2021, from https://www.healthline.com/health/healthful-benefits-of-gardening#fosters-human-connections

World Health Organization. 2013. Urban Population Growth, Global Health Observatory Database. World Health Organization. (14 February 2014; www.who.int/gho/urban_health/situation_trends/urban_population_growth_text/en/index.html)

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