I love this video that parodies drug ads using nature. It’s kind of silly, but a lot of what is said in the video is actually backed up by research that shows nature is good for your mental health (research showing nature’s effect in quelling murderous rage is harder to find.)
Studies have shown that even getting outside for a little bit during the workday can help you clear your mind and de-stress. In some places, doctors have actually begun prescribing nature to patients rather than drugs. In that sense, our investment in parks and trees should be seen from a public health perspective as well as from a recreation, social, and ecological perspective. In fact, in the US money for park improvements does sometimes come from the health sector, like this potential greenway in Minneapolis.
Charles Montgomery writes a lot about the happiness-inducing effects of nature in the city in his book Happy City, which is well worth a read. And you should read it while sitting outside in a park.
I love urban parks (duh), especially the tiny ones where a sliver of green and light and air can grow between whatever crack in the dense, urban fabric it can find. But sometimes a huge, expansive natural setting with not a bench or dog or building in sight is just what the doctor ordered.
Over Labour Day weekend, I had the chance to get the hell out of dodge with nothing but my trusty partner, a canoe, dehydrated food, and a tent for five days in Ontario’s magical Algonquin Park, just a few hours drive north of Toronto.
By now many of us parkites have already heard about or read the studies that show how restorative green spaces are to the body and mind. Even just a walk in the park at lunch can help clear the mind.
But if a walk in the park helps blow out the cobwebs, five days canoeing and portaging across multiple lakes deep in the woods is like taking a machete to them.
What was strange for me was that it took a few days for my mind to shed itself of the city. For the first two days, I found my eye catching sight of what I would think was a person or a car or a garbage can, only to turn to find a tree stump or a scraggly bush. It was like my brain, so used to the city, was going through hallucinatory withdrawals. The city-addled mind plays tricks.
Eventually, all of that washed away—helped, no doubt, by a night so unbelievably clear and free of the light that leaks from our skyscrapers and street lamps that the sky looked like an explosion.
All that being said, it’s nice to come home to a toilet that flushes.