By: GoodBulb – June 24, 2019
It’s 2019, and it’s time to get back in touch with our roots. Literally, and figuratively.
In the fast-pace of today’s society, it can be difficult to find the time or the justification to truly and simply STOP. Stop to breathe, stop to focus, stop to take time for ourselves when there is always something more to get done. Our inability to just stop is quickly manifesting in a variety of health issues that experts say can be fixed by spending just 2 hours each week in nature.
Research spearheaded by the University of Exeter in the UK discovered that spending just 2 hours – that is 120 minutes, or roughly 2 episodes of Game of Thrones – outside, in nature, per week can have a profoundly positive effect on our collective physical and mental health and wellbeing. This research showed, also, that no such positive effect could be measured in people who spent less than 2 hours in nature each week.
20,000 participants in England contributed to this study, and the research showed that exposure to the outdoors did not necessarily need to be done all at once. Whether participants spent 24 minutes outside Monday through Friday or crammed their outdoor adventures into a single, Saturday afternoon, so long as they dedicated a minimum of 120 minutes to being surrounded by nature from week to week, they all had the same positively measured outcome. What’s more is that this 2 hour minimum was not discriminatory based on age, race, gender, or economic status, or even amongst folks living with chronic illnesses or disabilities. The benefits of our natural world are quite inclusive!
“It’s well known that getting outdoors in nature can be good for people’s health and wellbeing, but until now, we’ve not been able to say how much is enough,” said Dr. Mat White, lead researcher of this project at the University of Exeter Medical School. “The majority of nature visits in this research took place within just two miles of home, so even visiting local urban green-spaces seems to be a good thing,” he continued. “Two hours a week is hopefully a realistic target for many people, especially given that it can be spread over an entire week to get the benefit.”
With urban populations climbing globally, opportunities to surround ourselves in nature are growing evermore difficult to accomplish. As a result, we are seeing an uptick in the number of urban agriculture initiatives, like UrbanFarming.org, taking root in city centers to help combat issues like air pollution and the rising number of food deserts which have resulted from overcrowding and overdevelopment of metropolitan areas. Not surprisingly, low income families seem to be hit the hardest by all of these issues due to a lack of access to, or the means to travel to, better food options or to easily find natural spaces at all.
One organization paving the way in uniting the health benefits of existing in nature for any length of time, and the need for fresh foods in urban settings, is Urban Farming. This is an organization that blossomed from an idea that has grown into a movement, and that now has a goal of reaching more than 100 Million families worldwide. Their mission, in part, “is to create an abundance of food for people in need by supporting and encouraging the establishment of gardens on unused land and space.” Urban Farming recognized the need for humans to be in contact with nature, and provides education and connections to help those suffering in food deserts to build, maintain, and benefit from these natural, outdoor spaces in as many ways as possible.
At the end of the day, living in greener neighborhoods can be very good for our health and there is an abundance of evidence to support that theory. “There are many reasons why spending time in nature may be good for health and wellbeing,” said Professor Terry Hartig of Upssala University in Sweden, co-author to the research led by the University of Exeter. “[This includes] getting perspective on life circumstances, reducing stress, and enjoying quality time with friends and family. The current findings offer valuable support to health practitioners in making recommendations about spending time in nature to promote basic health and wellbeing, similar to guidelines for weekly physical.”
While to some it may seem obvious that getting outdoors is a tried and true method to living our best lives, the reality is that not all people have the opportunity to make doing so a priority. GoodBulb’s mission is to make a difference, and we have found that there are so many different ways in which this mission can be accomplished. One way GoodBulb has found to do this is by donating solar LED lanterns to people and families in need. But this mission is also accomplished by seeking out and supporting other #GoodCauses in this world. Through efforts like those of Urban Farming, you, too, can have an impact on the livelihoods and wellbeing of the most vulnerable families in your own backyard.
How will you make a difference, today? For more information about food deserts and how Urban Farming is combating this growing problem, please visit them here. If you would like to read more about the research behind the University of Exeter study on how spending 2 hours each week in nature can benefit your health and wellbeing, please see the full published paper in Scientific Reports.