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How frequently visiting green spaces benefits our mental health

Amna Naseem
MSc Climate Change, Environment, Science and Policy student

26 July 2022

Hi there, I am Amna. I am on the MSc Climate Change, Environment, Science and Policy course. As students, we are constantly exposed to deadlines and there is pressure to be a jack of all trades. However, it is important to know that, together, we got this! 

Being in the city can sometimes be overwhelming, so it is important to take regular breaks. If I could tell you one thing from my experience at King’s, it would be to utilise green spaces and parks across London and elsewhere. Research shows that being surrounded by green spaces reduces anxiety and improves the immune system, and that regular contact with nature and green spaces promotes better mental health. For example, in the paper, Reduce stress in the context of daily life, it is recommended that we spend 10 to 30 minutes of quiet contemplation in nature as it can lower our levels of the stress hormone, cortisol.

Both short and long breaks in nature have beneficial effects on the physical response to stress, and studies show that regular contact with nature and green spaces promotes better mental health. You can visit green spaces on your own to seek solace in nature, or do group activities with your peers, organise picnics, go on hikes, volunteer at farms etc. There are also a few student societies at KCLSU, such as the Environment, Plant and Climate action societies, to connect with like-minded, green-fingered peers.

My six tips on using green spaces

1. Visit parks in London and near campus. London is full of beautiful historical parks. Personally, I would highly recommend visiting Russell Square gardens near Strand Campus, or Primrose Hill for a quick escape. You can also explore some of London's best green spaces on Student news.

2. Take a day off or a weekend trip. There are plenty of places accessible just a short trip from London that can be a good way of reconnecting with nature. Alternatively, you can also decompress at weekend nature retreats in green places farther away.

3. Earthing. Earthing means walking barefoot in nature to help us reconnect with the ground. It has many mental and physical health benefits such as decreasing muscle tension and lowering stress. This can prove to be a useful way to relax and get in some daily steps.

4. Forest bathing. It simply requires going to the woods or parks to engage with nature and be present without any distractions. This practice is helpful in improving concentration, memory, and feeling refreshed. This beginner’s guide to forest bathing is quite helpful to get started on this journey.

5. Pick up a ‘green' hobby. If you have access to an open space, try gardening or taking care of plants. Alternatively, you can volunteer to engage with nature, such as at a farm, garden or find opportunities with King’s Volunteering and King’s Sustainability.

6. Feed the mind. It might also be a good idea to visit places that care for both the planet as well as the soul. The headroom cafe is a good place to bring awareness and access to mental health support, there are also a few sustainable cafes in the city that are eco-friendly and can help cultivate a positive relationship with our food and environment. King’s has its own plant-based café, Roots, on the eighth floor of Bush House, serving a range of vegan options and stunning views of the River Thames from the terrace.

malestudent cafe

Finally, if you’re struggling with your mental health, make sure to use King’s mental health, wellbeing and counselling services. You may find it helpful to check out some resources for online support from Togetherall, one of King's mental health partners.

Our Faculty Wellbeing and Welfare Advisors are also here to help you during your studies. Connect with the team and check out their wellbeing e-module which includes support services and resources available at King’s.

KCLSU Wellbeing supports you to take care of yourself and get the best of your King’s experience. You can also connect with other students through Black Students Talk, the Positive Peers, and student societies on maintaining your well-being.

King’s Sport delivers a range of opportunities for you to get involved in sport and physical activity and King’s Chaplaincy also offers mindfulness sessions throughout the academic year.

Look after yourself, you are a valued member of the King’s community!