There is an increasing number of people who are interested in urban gardening in Metro Manila. Despite the limited space available to average households, they create a green oasis in the middle of a densely populated, intensely hot and dry, heavily polluted metropolis.
However, instead of creating an urban garden, many young people consider moving away from the capital and living in the surrounding cities where the price of a house and lot for sale is more affordable and there is space to start a real garden.
Living in or near green spaces, which would not be possible in Metro Manila, will improve your overall well-being. However, in places such as Cavite, Laguna, and Bulacan where nature is still allowed to thrive, you can reap the benefits of being in nature.
Living in a City: a Source of Stress
Anyone who has experienced living in a major city such as Metro Manila is familiar with the everyday stressors that people encounter. From stalled train service to unmoving road traffic, there is always a cause of frustration.
Manila is not alone in this. In one survey, the capital placed fifth in the list of the world’s most burned-out cities. Neighbors Jakarta in Indonesia and Hanoi in Vietnam were in sixth and seventh places respectively. Below Manila in the list are Istanbul, Turkey; Seoul, South Korea; Mumbai, India; and Tokyo, Japan.
Of course, not all cities cause tremendous amounts of stress. Tallinn, Estonia has been named as the least burned-out city in the world. It was followed by Ljubljana, Slovenia in second, and Oslo, Norway in third place.
However, there is scientific evidence that major cities are sources of stress. Scientists from Germany and Canada recruited participants who live in large cities, moderate-sized towns, or rural communities. All participants are relatively healthy adults.
During the research, scientists recorded the brain activity of each participant while trying to solve difficult mathematical problems. Throughout the exercise, each participant was also criticized for their mental abilities.
The research revealed that participants from large cities had most activities in the amygdala, the region of the brain that plays a role in fear and self-protection. Their response to a stressful situation is different and stronger than those who live in moderate-sized towns and tight-knit rural communities.
The scientists suggested that this response among city folks to stressors explains why anxiety and depression are more common among people who live in urban areas.
Absence of Nature: Bad for Mental Health
A research using data from NASA’s Landsat satellite archive and the Danish Civil Registration found that citizens who grew up in places where there are little green spaces had as much as 55 percent higher risk of being diagnosed with psychiatric disorders as an adult. They were more likely to develop anxiety, depression, and substance abuse later on.
The researchers explained that the presence of nature is as significant of a predictor of mental health outcomes as parental age and family history. Only socioeconomic status has a stronger influence on mental health.
Happiness is Being Surrounded by Nature
In contrast, spending time in natural environments can leave a lasting positive impact on a person’s mental health.
Another paper, this time from researchers based in the United Kingdom, used data from the British Household Panel Survey (now Understanding Society Survey) which asked various questions such as income and marital status to about 40,000 households per year. The Survey also includes General Health Questionnaire which clinicians used to diagnose anxiety and depression.
They found the positive boost to mental health caused by promotion at work and pay rise was short-lived. However, people who live in areas with green spaces experienced less stress and positive mental well-being that lasts for more than three years.
There is also strong evidence that being around nature, even for only a few minutes a day, lowers levels of stress. The decrease of cortisol, the hormone responsible for the fight-and-flight response, is healthy not just for the mind but also for the body.
Moreover, researchers suggest that, when people are less stressed, they are better at communicating with each other. There is also less likely to be a conflict, which could lead to a happier married life. Young couples who are planning to settle down should consider moving outside of major cities and into neighborhoods with green spaces.
Access to green spaces is not a cure for mental health disorders. People who experience high levels of stress, anxiety, and depression should consult a mental health professional. However, the science is clear that spending time in a natural environment is good for mental well-being, which could aid in recovery.