Have you ever wondered why you feel a deep sense of calm when you walk along the pathway in a forest? Or why you feel so much ease in your soul as you watch the ocean waves roll on a beach? Or why you feel Mother Nature’s strong call when you see birds soaring in the sky and singing beautiful songs at dawn? No one would argue that we have an innate desire to connect with nature as humans, even in ways we don’t fully understand.
According to Wikipedia, landscape architecture aims to design outdoor areas, landmarks, and structures to achieve environmental, social-behavioral, or aesthetic outcomes. In this post, we explore how carefully designed outdoor spaces can help boost our overall well-being.
Green Spaces Provide Access to Nature.
With the rapid urbanization of many places, the need for accessible green spaces is greater than ever. Several studies have shown that access to the natural environment in people’s daily routines is effective for general mental health, reducing stress and depression, and improving mood and cognitive functions.
That’s why green spaces should be incorporated in all designs. Simple features like street trees and flower commute is a great way for inhabitants to connect with nature. Having a garden in your yard can serve help you distance yourself from everyday hectic demands. All this will have a positive impact on your mental health.
The benefits of exercising are well-established in the academic literature. Exercise is known to release positive brain chemicals like serotonin, which is associated with improved mood. Exercise is also known to provide relaxation, reduce stress, and improve sleep, all of which are important for improved mental health. And even though no one will argue with its immense benefits, many people find it hard to stay consistent.
However, a well-designed landscape can help improve people’s attitude towards exercising. Increased safe walkability and bike-ability with protected lanes and convenient connections between different parts of the city will encourage more walking and cycling. Furthermore, proactively designed centers like football pitches and outdoor gyms will make it easier for people to exercise.
Encouraging Positive Social Interactions
Humans are a social species – meaning we have to form bonds with other people to maintain our sanity. Hence, positive social interactions are important for our mental health. Also, having relationships with others give us a sense of community which can help boost self-esteem, empathy, and self-confidence. It also gives us a support system.
Landscape architecture pro-actively aims to design outdoor spaces in such a way as to improve social interactions. The most obvious example is public parks. Asides from serving as great relaxation centers, they also provide a platform where residents can easily interact with each other in an informal setting. Other innovative tactics can be used to foster this interaction. For instance, chess tables installed in parks give people a reason to interact. Lesser obvious features like compact, walkable neighborhoods also promote daily interactions.
Intelligent landscape architecture can help us satisfy our innate need for connection with others.
Several studies have been carried out to show how landscape architecture can help promote physical health. In this section, we briefly explore some of them.
- Type II Diabetes
A Japanese study published in the US National Library of Medicine indicated that walking 3 km a day can help improve symptoms of diabetes by reducing glucose levels by up to 40 percent. As indicated earlier, landscape architects can help diabetic patients by creating walking trails in parks.
- Attention Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
A study carried out by the University of Illinois Urbana showed that children playing in green outdoor spaces were able to concentrate more than those who played indoors. Landscape architects are responsible for designing green outdoor spaces. And with over 6 million children with ADHD in the United States, landscape architecture does a lot of good.
A report by the National Center for Biotechnological Information showed that interaction with nature could help improve depression. For reasons that are not yet fully understood, interacting with nature improves mood and even memory capacity. Public parks offer a great platform for people to interact with nature – especially those in urban centers where natural habitats are scarce.
- Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
PTSD is a mental health condition that’s triggered by a terrifying event – either experiencing it or witnessing it. Common symptoms include nightmares, flashbacks, severe anxiety, and uncontrollable thoughts of the event. Thankfully, nature can immensely help in the healing process. Therapeutic landscape designers are building gardens that can help PTSD patients recover, among many other ideas they’re exploring.
Landscape architecture plays a crucial role in our world today. And even as our civilization further advances, we will continue to need landscape architects to help us maintain our bond with nature, which is necessary for our well-being.
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