To Get Rid of the Blues, Find the Green

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Originally posted on April 15, 2014.

For those of us living in the American Midwest, it’s been an historic winter. The phrase “polar vortex,” once beholden to meteorologists, crept into daily conversation. Dozens of inches of snow, frozen pipes, and school cancellations can build stress, weariness, and even depression. To get rid of the blues, find the green space.

Green spaces refer to parks, forests, or other parcels of land meant to connect people to nature. Numerous studies have shown that green spaces relate to better mental health. But one recent study took things to an entirely new level. A group of University of Wisconsin researchers, led by Kirsten Beyer, surveyed a representative sample of Wisconsin residents for mental health issues. They also used satellite imagery to estimate the amount of local green space.

What did they find? The more green space people had close to them, the better their mental health. When people search for a new apartment, condo, or house, the only green they often consider is the money they need to spend. But these findings suggest that living near green spaces pays off by predicting better mental health.

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About the Author
C. Nathan DeWall is Professor of Psychology and Director of the Social Psychology Lab at the University of Kentucky. He received his Bachelor’s Degree from St. Olaf College, a Master’s Degree in Social Science from the University of Chicago, and a Master’s degree and Ph.D. in Social Psychology from Florida State University. DeWall received the 2011 College of Arts and Sciences Outstanding Teaching Award, which recognizes excellence in undergraduate and graduate teaching. In 2011, the Association for Psychological Science identified DeWall as a “Rising Star” for “making significant contributions to the field of psychological science.”