There are so many benefits to being outside in nature. Something as simple as taking a stroll in the woods is good for your mental health, can help you sleep, relax your body and make you feel better.
But a new study finds that you can benefit without even putting on your shoes. The key is being able to see the green space from your home.
Researchers at the University of Plymouth in Devon in the U.K. found that just being able to see green spaces while you're indoors is associated with reduced cravings for alcohol, cigarettes and unhealthy foods. The study, which was published in the journal Health & Place, showed that even passive exposure to nearby green areas is linked with fewer cravings and the strength of those cravings.
“It has been known for some time that being outdoors in nature is linked to a person’s well-being. 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," said Leanne Martin, who led the research as part of her master's degree, in a statement.
"This is the first study to explore this idea, and it could have a range of implications for both public health and environmental protection programs in the future."
Another reason to protect green space
For the study, volunteers answered questions about cravings and their personal exposure to nature. The survey measured the amount of green space in their neighborhood, whether they had views of green space from their home and access to a backyard, and how often they used parks and other public green areas.
Researchers found that having access to a yard was linked with fewer cravings and lower craving strength. Having views that incorporated more than 25% green space had the same effect.
Researchers say the findings are just one more reason cities need to protect green spaces, because of all the health benefits they offer.
"Craving contributes to a variety of health-damaging behaviors such as smoking, excessive drinking and unhealthy eating. In turn, these can contribute to some of the greatest global health challenges of our time, including cancer, obesity and diabetes," said co-author Sabine Paul, associate professor of psychology.
"Showing that lower craving is linked to more exposure to green spaces is a promising first step. Future research should investigate if and how green spaces can be used to help people withstand problematic cravings, enabling them to better manage cessation attempts in the future."