There is a growing body of evidence to suggest that access to nature promotes good mental and physical health for people of all ages. An example of this is that doctors prescribe fewer anti-depressants to people living in urban areas with more trees in their streets (1), whilst there are fewer instances of depression, anxiety and stress when neighbourhoods have good vegetation cover and attract lots of birds (2). Green spaces such as parks provide space, clean air and tranquil surroundings whilst encouraging exercise and unplanned social activity - for example with other families or dog-owners.
In Japan, the practice of walking in woodlands (shinrin-yoku or 'forest bathing') is popular with stressed-out office workers who are able to let go of their concerns, reduce their levels of cortisol (the 'stress hormone') commune with their environment and awaken their senses. Such mindful walking in nature, either alone or within a group, helps re-centre oneself and can liberate creative 'right-brained' thought. Similarly, most people can attest to the restorative power of time spent by the sea.
Even looking at pictures of landscapes, woodland or other natural scenes has been shown to enhance mood, lower our experience of pain and aid recovery from stress.
Children who have regular access to nature learn about and learn to care for the natural world through contact with plants, insects and animals, as well as benefit greatly from time spent away from screens. In addition, growing up in microbe-rich environments has been shown to decrease the likelihood of allergies (3).