We often don’t stop to reflect on how our environment is interconnected and influences our own personal health and wellbeing. Read on to discover connections between our natural environment and its positive impacts on health and wellbeing.
Engaging with nature
Activities that promote engagement with the environment allow us to connect with nature in constructive ways, both for ourselves and for the greater good of our environments.
Research shows that we need nature to nurture our psychological, emotional and spiritual needs. It is also believed that being in nature relieves attention fatigue and increases creativity. Study results demonstrate that there is a cognitive advantage to be realized if we spend time immersed in a natural setting. 
Being around nature also has interpersonal benefits. There is evidence indicating that people prone to perceiving natural beauty report greater prosocial tendencies, perspective taking, empathy, generosity, trust and helping behaviours. [2, 3]
In return, caring for the environment can develop into something more and can benefit our own wellbeing. Showing gratitude to nature can strengthen spiritual growth. According to a new study by UBC Assistant Professor Catherine Broom, protecting the environment can be as easy as telling children to go play outdoors. Children who play outside are more likely to care about nature.
Outdoor physical activity and mental wellbeing
Being alone with nature has been shown to decrease stress and anxiety.  When paired with physical activity outdoors, the benefits are even more significant. Research has shown that walking in forested areas decreases stress and anxiety, and inspires better moods when compared to walking in busy urban areas. Findings from additional studies indicate that walking in nature can spur positive emotions and improved performance on memory tasks. 
Green spaces and health benefits
A recent World Health Organization (WHO) report co-authored by Dr. Matilda van den Bosch, Assistant Professor in UBC’s School of Population & Public Health (SPPH), summarizes the health benefits of urban green spaces. Urban green spaces have shown various health benefits, including improved mood, stress relief and promotion of physical activity.
Whether you work at UBC Vancouver, UBC Okanagan or one of UBC’s many off-campus sites, we are so lucky to work in locations situated by the ocean or surrounded with greenery. Nature is basically at our fingertips. Explore the natural environment around you by taking a walking meeting or joining a walking group. Also, check out hidden gems on campus during your lunch break.
We know what influence the environment has on our personal health and wellbeing, which is another reason to care for our beautiful planet. We cannot care about personal health without incidentally caring about the environment. Now that we’ve made the connection, let’s find ways to sustain one another.
Other Related Information & Resources:
- City of Vancouver tips for sustainable living at home
- City of Vancouver green programs and volunteer opportunities
- UBC’s sustainable purchasing guide
- UBC’s glossary of green product labels and certifications.
- UBC’s Recyclepedia, an A-Z listing of items that can be recycled or composted on campus
 Zhang J et al: An occasion for unselfing: beautiful nature leads to prosociality. Journal of Environmental Psychology. 2014; volume 37 pages 61-72.
 Atchley R, Strayer D, Atchley P: Creativity in the Wild: Improving Creative Reasoning Through Immersion in Natural Settings. PLoS ONE. 2012; 7(12): e51474.
Photo credit: Melissa Lafrance