Urban green areas may help you deal with negative emotions, improving wellness

In a new study, researchers found green areas in the inner city can directly improve the well-being of urban citizens.

Moreover, people with a reduced brain capacity to self-regulate negative feelings benefit most from the green areas.

The research was conducted by an interdisciplinary study in which Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) was involved.

Neighboring green areas with trees, shrubs, lawns, and flowers make people feel good not only in the heat of summer.

In the study, the team examined 33 urban citizens aged from 18 to 28, who were asked to evaluate their mood with specially equipped smartphones about nine times per day for one week.

During this period, the participants went on with their normal daily routines.

After this, the proportion of green areas in their neighborhoods were determined from highly resolved aerial photos and with the help of geo-information methods.

In situations in which the people were surrounded by more green areas in the city, the participants turned out to have higher well-being.

In the second step, 52 other young adults were asked to assess their mood in everyday life in the same way.

After the assessment phase of seven days, these participants were additionally examined by functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI).

This method is used to represent certain brain functions. The results of the second group were found to be in line with those of the first run.

The team says the larger the green areas in the neighborhood of the urban citizens are, the higher is the well-being.

Persons who very positively reacted to green areas were found to have reduced activity in the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex.

This brain region has a central control function in processing negative emotions and stressful environmental experience.

These results suggest that green areas are particularly important for persons whose capacity to self-regulate negative emotions is reduced.

Green areas evenly distributed in the city might develop a great potential for preventing psychic diseases, such as depression, schizophrenia and anxiety disorders.

The study is published in Nature Neuroscience.

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