A recent article was published in The Straits Times about mental health and access to natural environments. Here are the main points of the article.

Studies show that in a fast-paced, crowded urban environment, mental health can begin to decline. Constant exposure to manmade structures, paved areas, and very little natural growth can begin to take a toll on the human psyche. With the inclusion of green spaces and parks, people can enjoy the beauty of nature and reap the mental health benefits that go along with it.

Trees, Oxygen, and the Serotonin Connection

In a high-density city environment, the quality of the atmosphere suffers. There are simply too many people and machines putting out pollutants. However, with the addition of trees and other leafy plants, the quality of the air becomes better. Trees act as natural filters, refreshing the air with clean oxygen. It’s a scientific fact that just one tree can potentially absorb up to 10 pounds of air pollutants annually while emitting almost 260 pounds of oxygen. If one tree is capable of such tangible health benefits, imagine what twenty, fifty, or a hundred trees could do for a neighbourhood.

The increase in oxygen benefits the brain, enhancing the neurotransmitters’ ability to communicate with each other. One neural chemistry study revealed that people or animals who live in high-altitude areas with lower oxygen levels also have lower serotonin levels. The same is true of people who live in a pollutant-cluttered urban environment, where oxygen levels may be affected or contaminated. So when the quality and quantity of oxygen in the environment increases, as it does in a green space, people start to feel better. Their brain begins functioning more smoothly and producing more serotonin, which helps to cheer them up.

Visual Stimulation and a Refreshed Outlook

Green spaces have a visual effect as well . Man-made structures can be beautiful, with fantastic architectural elements and stunning decor; but even the most attractive buildings cannot mimic the effect that natural beauty has on the human psyche. The presence of trees, grass, flowers, and water elements soften the view, causing a positive physical and emotional reaction in people. Individuals usually feel more relaxed, calm, and able to handle the tasks of the day after walking in a park, gardening, or simply sitting under a tree and gazing at nature. It’s tough to quantify and understand this effect, but it is undeniable. Studies have even revealed that hospital patients who can see trees from their windows often recover more swiftly than those without a view of greenery.

If you are sinking in bouts of depression in Singapore, or if you find yourself struggling to maintain your mental health in other ways, plan an excursion to a beautiful green space to lift your spirits and lighten your outlook on life. Take a break from technology and from demanding mental tasks and allow yourself to relax and unwind in a natural haven— preferably one that includes trees. Of course, exposure to the natural world is just one step in your journey back to a positive mental outlook. Here at the Adelphi Psych Medicine Clinic, our psychiatrist, psychologists and therapists are happy to join with you and assist you on your path to a brighter, healthier future. Contact us today and set up a confidential consultation with one of our trained mental health professionals.

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Source: The Straits Times, August 12 2016.