Leaves of grass: Views of greenery from home, work help reduce harmful cravings

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PLYMOUTH, England — So much of modern life happens indoors. From offices to apartments or homes, most people in today’s day and age find themselves cooped up inside for most of the day. Spending more time outdoors has long been linked to a more positive mindset, but now a study has concluded that just seeing greenery on a day-to-day basis can put us in a better mindset and reduce harmful cravings for substances such as alcohol, cigarettes, and junk food.

According to the study out of the University of Plymouth, being able to see greenery and nature from your home will lead to less frequent, and intense cravings. The research builds off of previous work that has established a link between exercising outdoors and reduced cravings, but the study’s authors assert that exercise isn’t necessary to reap the benefits of nature.

The study is the first of its kind, and its authors say their findings stress the need for cities and communities the world over to invest in and protect public green spaces.

“It has been known for some time that being outdoors in nature is linked to a person’s wellbeing. But for there to be a similar association with cravings from simply being able to see green spaces adds a new dimension to previous research. This is the first study to explore this idea, and it could have a range of implications for both public health and environmental protection programmes in the future,” explains lead researcher Leanne Martin in a release.

Participants in the study filled out an online survey that asked questions about their daily exposure to nature, usual cravings, and how often they experience negative emotions. Regarding nature, the survey measured participants’ exposure to greenery in their own neighborhoods, the amount of foliage visible from their homes, access to a garden, and how often they frequent public parks.

The results indicated that daily access to a garden or other green spaces lowered the frequency and occurrence of harmful cravings. Additionally, the ability to view nature from one’s home caused similar results. Researchers also took exercise into account in the surveys, but they found that participants reported less cravings after seeing nature regardless of whether they exercised or not.

The study’s authors want to conduct additional studies regarding nature’s impact on cravings in the future, and are hopeful that green spaces can be used to help individuals struggling with harmful addictions.

The study is published in the scientific journal Health & Place.

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