THE GREEN STUFF MATTERS — AND I DON’T MEAN MONEY
THE BENEFITS OF NATURE ARE MORE OBVIOUS AFTER COVID
For most of us, Covid meant re-evaluating our priorities. We ditched big social networks and prioritised hanging with our best mates. We spent more time at home (obviously). People made sourdough and shit like that. I’ve already written about how many of us were getting away from the corporate machine called employment. But another thing that really exploded during two years of lockdowns was people connecting with nature, however they could.
Why is nature good for human happiness?
Why do we need it, even if we don’t realise we do?
People went mad for plants during Covid. It makes sense. 1 in 8 of us don’t have gardens, so houseplants were an obvious substitute. Social media went for it. #plantsofinstagram — 13 million uses. TikTok #plantsoftiktok — 5 billion views. Being a ‘plant parent’ is now a thing, and not just for girls or old ladies. I like to think I was ahead of the crowd on the houseplant trend, but I’ve definitely been overtaken by this Japanese lady.
Plants are a commitment, but people went way further. Brits (mainly young ones) got 3.2 million new pets during Covid. Apparently the supermarkets almost ran out of dog food at one point. (Unfortunately, now people have realised that dogs still need walking even when you’ve gone back to the office, they want to give them back).
Summer 2020 (and about 3 days of 2021) were hot. People wanted to be out in nature. They were spending more time outside than before the pandemic, but in cities the lack of gardens was a problem. Parks were inundated festival-style as people flocked to any green space they could find (and also festival-style, pooped in a lot of them).
And a bunch of people also quit cities altogether for the countryside. No surprise when we were locked down inside with no gardens and the parks were full of litter and poop.
So Covid helped us realise how much we value nature in all its forms. But why? What are the benefits of nature for us humans?
Science has proven the physical and mental benefits of getting close to nature. It makes sense — we evolved in nature after all. Humans have been around for at least 300,000 years, but the oldest cities (that we know of… ) are only 6,000 years old. Just over a decade ago humans became a majority-urban species. We’re yet to see what that does to us, but I suspect it won’t be pretty.
Take the Covid houseplant craze. There’s tons of evidence that indoor plants are good for you, not just a way to get more followers on instagram. The psychological health benefits of plants include better mood, reduced stress, increased productivity, a longer attention span and better focus. Get your boss to buy you a houseplant?
Benefits of plants also include lower blood pressure, reduced fatigue and headaches, and increased healing and pain tolerance. They improve air quality, remove dust and mould, increase humidity and add oxygen to the air — helping you sleep better. Get your doctor to buy you a houseplant?
And as for the puppy craze… Also good for you, especially for the millions of people who felt lonely during lockdown. It’s not just going for a walk, but having a cute little friend to cuddle and talk to. People with pets are healthier. Just stroking an animal relieves anxiety (it doesn’t even need to be cute and fluffy).
Time spent in nature helps you sleep better, reduces stress, makes you happier and can even help you find a sense of meaning in life. Nature has big benefits for mental health, more necessary than ever when up to 30% of adults in the UK experienced psychological distress during the pandemic. More connection to nature leads to a stronger sense of community and even lower crime rates.
Last but not least, nature also improves attention, memory, creativity and cognitive performance. This is thought to be down to the fact that humans find nature so interesting, it restores our senses and rests our overactive minds. Yes — nature makes you cleverer!
It’s a fact — nature is good for you. We need it. We crave it. Covid has changed the world and how we see it. Maybe our new-found interest in nature will go all the way to protecting it at a global scale. At PFBD, we’ll be starting with planting mangroves each time we sell a product.
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Oz Nwachukwu is a British Architect living in London and the founder of plasticfreebydesign.com. Feel free to get in contact for a chat @ firstname.lastname@example.org.