Universiteit Leiden

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The restorative power of nature

Have you had a busy week at work? If so, it’s better to take a walk in a natural environment than to go shopping in the city.

Psychologists from Leiden University have concluded that this is a more effective way of recovering your mental balance.  The researchers – led by Leiden psychologist Henk Staats – carried out a study of the ‘restorative value’ of different living environments. This value is the degree to which an environment contributes to psychological recovery following stress or mental exhaustion. Their findings: you recover better from stress in a rural and natural environment.   

Café, park and shops

Staats and his colleagues conducted the study among several hundred students in the Netherlands, Sweden and the US.  They compared the restorative value of everyday activities such as sitting in the park and shopping. Parks rated highly as places for recovery. The more tired people were, the less they appreciated shopping and cafés.   

Family and friends

The research showed that being in the company of family and friends also has an influence. While shopping or visiting a café, being with people you know well can have a positive effect on recovery. In the park, it makes no difference.  

Green cities

The researchers expect that adding more parks and natural environments to cities in the Netherlands will make a positive contribution to the quality of life and the mental health of city-dwellers. The restorative quality of cities will benefit from more green areas.  

You can read the researchers' full article Urban Options for Psychological Restoration: Common Strategies in Everyday Situations

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