PARKS

75 parks and pathways
beautify Spokane County
with nearly 3,488 acres of protected green space.


  • Walking in nature could lead to a lower risk of depression.  People in the study confirmed the idea that time in nature promotes mental health.
"These results suggest that accessible natural areas may be vital for mental health in our rapidly urbanizing world," said co-author Gretchen Daily.  Nature affects the way you....allocate your attention, helping people not only feel better, but also think better thoughts.

In the study, two groups of participants walked for 90 minutes one in a grassland area scattered with oak trees and shrubs, the other along a traffic-heavy four-lane roadway.  Participants sat for brain scans and completed a questionnaire, and researchers found marked changes in the brain.  Neural activity in the subgenual prefrontal cortex, a brain region active during rumination - repetitive thought focused on negative emotions, that are associated with increased risk to develop mental disorders such as depression - decreased among participants who walked in nature versus those who walked in an urban environment.  In other words, nature has a positive impact on mental health by its ability to decrease rumination.  "This finding demonstrates the impact of nature experience on an aspect of emotion regulation - something that may help explain how nature makes us feel better," said lead author Gregory Bratman.  "They are consistent with, but do not yet prove, a causal link between increasing urbanization and increased rates of mental illness," said co-author James Gross. 

"The results illustrate the importance of stimulating the brain with lush, green scenery.  When you go out in nature, you are raising serotonin, dopamine and endorphin levels, which are associated with a good mood.  Time in nature leads to improved health and an improved outlook," said Eva Selhub, a physician and co-author of 'Your Brain on Nature.'n"  This new research also holds valuable lessons for individuals.  "When you get stressed, you can take advantage of (this research)."  "Spending time in nature "is one of those things you can do for yourself to improve your outlook and energy level," says Selhub. 

Linda Buzzell said that all of us could spend more time outside, although she cautioned that a walk won't be the beset option for everyone.  "For one person, a walk would be a wonderful (ecotherapy) prescription.  But for someone else, the best answer might be something like connecting with an animal companion," she said.  Buzzell encourages her clients to find outdoor hobbies that get them excited to spend time in nature.  In that way, they can enjoy the mental health benefits and have fun, too.  "You have to find what works best for you to get your dose of 'vitamin N," she said.  (Linda Buzzell, a psychotherapist who founded the International Association for Ecotherapy)    

These findings should urge policymakers and urban planners to take the value of green space seriously.  ("Stanford researches find mental health prescription:  Nature.  Study finds that walking in nature yields measurable mental benefits and may reduce risk of depression," by Rob Jordan, study authors Greg Bratman and Gretchen Daily, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, Stanford University Report, June 30, 2015; see the abstract at http://spl.stanford.edu/pdfs/2015/Bratman%20LUP.pdf; and Park Perks, by Kelsey Dallas, Deseret News, August 23, 2015)
Statistics
  • Of the U.S. adults who enjoy the outdoors -
    2%      Never do
    6%      1-2 times per week
    8%      3-4 times per week
    12%    nearly every day
    72%    once a day      (Source:  National Recreation and Park Association)

What You Can Do
  • Observe nature, but leave it undisturbed.  Pack out what you pack in, leaving no evidence that you were there.  
  • Organize a group clean-up activity in one of our parks.  
  • Attend the Spokane County Park Board meetings, held the 2nd Thursday, 4 p.m. at the Park Department building. 
  • Secure valuables – When driving to a park or trail to exercise, secure your valuables (wallets, purses, and other items which are easily pawned) in the trunk of your car, or leave them home. Thieves prowl these areas.  Also, check out the parking area for potential suspects who are seated in a vehicle and do not appear to be intent on using the trail.  Simple eye contact, and obviously noting the license plate number and vehicle description, may persuade would-be prowlers to move on to some other locale.  
  • Washington State Parks.  Your vehicle license tab bill may include a $5 donation for more than 100 Washington State Parks.  The 2009 Legislature made significant budget cuts that meant service reductions and potential park closures to deal with the current economic recession—so, they created the donation program specifically to keep state parks open.  For more information, visit http://parks.wa.gov.   If you want to support your state parks with a larger donation, send your check to Washington State Parks, 1111 Israel Road S.W., P.O. Box 42650, Olympia, WA   98504-2650. 
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