A greener city benefits students

At a recent University of Minnesota-hosted panel discussion, experts shed light on the relationship between green urban spaces and mental health. During the discussion, researchers presented findings from a yearlong study on how nature and urban design can influence mental health.
Some of the findings were stark — for example, as an urban area’s population increases, so does its inhabitants’ chance of developing a mental illness. 
But other findings offered potential solutions. For example, an analysis of various studies found that exposure to nature can improve mood and cognitive function, as well as reduce anxiety. Other research found that walking in natural areas rather than urban settings could reduce activity in the brain regions associated with depression.
Because humans are so biologically entwined with nature, one scientist said, depriving them of it can cause their physical and mental health to suffer.
As University students enter what is arguably the most stressful time of year — the period that brings finals, graduation and new jobs — we urge them to seek out the hundreds of parks that Minneapolis and St. Paul have to offer. As outdoor places of study or havens from stress, these green spaces can help ease the seasonal mental crunch.
We also urge regional urban planners to continue to consider how their work affects the mental well-being of the more-than 700,000 people living in the Twin Cities. When they create or redesign urban spaces, we hope they keep a nature-based perspective in mind.