Fresh air, sprawling spaces, and proximity to nature make parks appealing to residents of all ages and a necessary amenity for any community. Not only are parks a good place for adults to relax or kids to play with the aid of playgrounds, but the encounters with nature and the freedoms public parks offer have shown to alleviate mental fatigue for improved mental health, in addition to improving physical health. You needn’t take our word for it, however—let’s take a more in-depth look at how parks reduce stress and improve mental health.
The Environment and Our Brains
No matter how logical humans may be, the environment has a profound effect on our minds and mental state. The brain is the only organ that undergoes further growth and maturation after birth, and it grows and learns from the various stimuli we encounter in our environments—whether this is stimuli that affect our mood or present a new challenge for our minds to comprehend and solve. To that end, encountering nature provides our minds with positive stimuli that make us feel good and facilitates cognitive functioning. Public parks, in particular, provide a curated experience – allowing us to spend time within nature with many of the modern comforts and conveniences we’re accustomed to. This makes parks the perfect place to alleviate your worries and woes so that you can return to your daily life feeling refreshed and avoid feeling overwhelmed and stressed by your responsibilities.
Relieving Mental Exhaustion
As this mental relief is primarily how parks reduce stress and improve mental health, it’s pertinent to go into greater detail what circumstances benefit the most from such a reprieve. For example, parks are incredibly important amenities for city dwellers who endure the constant stimuli of bustling crowds and traffic within a concrete jungle. The nature and open space of a public park can be such a great change of place that allows residents to slow down, take a breather, and reorganize their thoughts. No matter how small the stimuli, it’s impossible to endure it indefinitely, which is why places like New York’s Central Park are so revered.
Students and office workers will experience similar issues. Whether it be your studies or your 9-5 job, your focus and attention are demanded of you for extensive lengths of time. This generates an issue called “attention fatigue” that makes it difficult to continue giving your undivided attention to such tasks because your brain is, essentially, overloaded with stress from trying to screen out distractions or maintain attention on something that isn’t very stimulating or pleasurable. For schools, they work to solve this by allowing kids a break to go outside onto a playground where they can have fun and recover from attention fatigue—aided by the positive, calming stimulus that being outdoors can provide. Some offices endeavor to provide a similar experience by providing courtyards, but that is not often the norm. For this reason, having accessible public parks is important to provide many white-collar employees a chance to recover their mental health during their break or after work.
Improving Cognitive Function
Continuing with the topic of employees, students, and the mental stress demanded of them, the opportunity to enjoy a park can be invaluable when they’re stuck in a suffocating office space or classroom for most of the day. Not only will it help them to recover from attention fatigue, but they’ll also experience the benefit of improved cognitive function.
It’s not uncommon for employees to decorate the office or their cubicle with plants to compensate for the drab walls or lack of windows. While plants do make the office seem more pleasant and attractive, some other observed benefits of providing your employees proximity to nature are an increase in employee morale, a decrease in absentees, and greater efficiency in their work. If you’re a manager of an office and want to see your employees healthier or an improvement in workplace efficiency, then you should certainly endeavor to provide your employees with opportunities to escape the office and enjoy time in a nearby public park.
Studying requires such an intense amount of focus that, between classes, homework, and personal studying, it’s all too easy for college students to burn themselves out and feel incapable of holding their own attention. A classroom can quickly feel like a cage, and a sense of overwhelming dread will be inevitable if students never get a break. Parks are the perfect place for students to go in-between classes to recover from their attention fatigue, as we touched on, and organize their responsibilities so they can continue to feel in control of their learning.
Filled with boundless energy and curiosity, spending time outdoors in an environment where they can explore and play is crucial for children’s mental development. Commercial playsets for sale have been designed with modern ideas of safety and child development that make them a necessity for any playground in a community with children. Not only does it help them burn off energy so they can focus in class, but the physical activity and various challenges these playsets provide help develop skills like problem-solving as kids move their bodies in different ways than they typically would. Furthermore, playgrounds provide kids with an opportunity for free play—activities that are not guided or led by an adult or authority figure. Instead, it’s up to kids to lead themselves and make decisions, leading to the formation of crucial social skills that won’t develop in the classroom where a teacher is the ruling authority.
Soothing Mental Illness
For those struggling with mental illness and similar conditions, public parks can be a valuable resource for you to use in managing symptoms. The positive stimuli and benefits we’ve already talked about concerning parks and nature provide a natural aid that will help those with depression or anxiety clear their heads of intrusive thoughts so that they can soothe their nerves. More serious ailments like Alzheimer's or Dementia also benefit from such stimuli by promoting positive feelings and reducing undesirable behaviors from lashing out and exacerbating their illness. While a park is not a cure, the affinity we have for nature as animals ourselves will always provide us with a sense of peace and sanctuary that being stuck indoors all day cannot. If you need help clearing your head and reclaiming your thoughts, a park is never a bad way to improve your mental health.