The Healing Power of Green Spaces

Green spaces—gardens, parks, nature trails, urban forests—are a lifeline at any time but especially, as many of us have discovered, during a pandemic. If these spaces are part of everyday life, it can be as easy to take them for granted as it is to appreciate their value. You grow up with them and expect them to be there, visual backgrounds that may become routine, and as you benefit from them you may not consider their impact until a crisis forces reflection.

That impact is significant and is the focus of an expanding area of research. “How Immersion in Nature Benefits Your Health,”1 “Spending at least 120 minutes a week in green lobed leaves on branchnature is associated with good health and wellbeing,”2 and similar articles explore the positive health aspects of nature and gardens and landscapes.

For the gardener or landscape designer, the research findings might seem obvious, because they’re experienced with every minute spent working around plants. But for many, green spaces aren’t easy to access, they’re not part of one’s daily world, and the health benefits don’t exist. The Green Heart project3, mentioned in a previous post, is one study addressing this inequity by assessing the health benefits of planting trees in South Louisville, Kentucky, an area with limited green space and severe air pollution. The results may influence future green space design, including support for expanding access to green space to improve public health.

Gardeners and landscape designers have an opportunity to contribute to this effort now. Every garden adds square footage to a locality’s green space and every garden, whether wild or bird-friendly or traditional, educates neighbors and passersby on the power and beauty and impact of plants. Plot by plot, we can help build support for universal access to green space.


1. Robbins, Jim. “Ecopsychology: How Immersion in Nature Benefits Your Health.” Yale Environment 360. January 9, 2020. (Published at the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies). Accessed June 20, 2020.

2. White, M.P., Alcock, I., Grellier, J. et al. Spending at least 120 minutes a week in nature is associated with good health and wellbeing. Sci Rep 9, 7730 (2019). Accessed June 20, 2020.

3. Edgecomb, Misty. “Journey to the Coronary Valley: Louisville’s Green Heart Project Tests Nature’s Role as a Prescription for Urban Health.” Perspectives. The Nature Conservancy. October 06, 2017. Accessed June 20, 2020.

If you’d like to read more . . .

Brindley, Paul et al. “Domestic gardens and self-reported health: a national population study.” Int J Health Geogr (2018) 17:31. Accessed June 21, 2020.

Carrus G, Scopelliti M, Panno A, Lafortezza R, Colangelo G, Pirchio S, Ferrini F, Salbitano F, Agrimi M, Portoghesi L, Semenzato P and Sanesi G. (2017) “A Different Way to Stay in Touch with ‘Urban Nature’: The Perceived Restorative Qualities of Botanical Gardens.” Front. Psychol. 8:914. Accessed June 21, 2020.

Frumkin, Howard et al. “Nature Contact and Human Health: A Research Agenda.” Environmental health perspectives. vol. 125,7 075001. 31 Jul. 2017. Accessed June 21, 2020.

Green, Jared. “Green Heart: First Major Clinical Study to Examine the Health Impact of Trees.” The Dirt. 12/18/2017. Accessed June 20, 2020.

Thompson, Richard. “Gardening for health: a regular dose of gardening.” Clinical medicine (London, England). vol. 18,3 (2018): 201-205. Accessed June 21, 2020.

“Tree Equity in America’s Cities – American Forests.” American Forests. Accessed July 18, 2020.

Twedt E, Rainey RM and Proffitt DR (2016). “Designed Natural Spaces: Informal Gardens Are Perceived to Be More Restorative than Formal Gardens.” Front. Psychol. 7:88. Accessed June 21, 2020.

Note: The original draft of this post was written on June 20, 2020.

Photo Attribution
Photo 1: Downloaded from Pexels – Source: Valeria Boltneva

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