In the land Down Under, we’re currently in the thick of a long, hot summer. Most of us spend our spare time during this season at the beach. But, what if there was another destination that offered even greater relaxation? Somewhere less busy, searing, and sandy? Somewhere green, of course. In Australia, we’re lucky to have more than 500 national parks – wild, rejuvenating, and free for all.

Lord knows we need a little relaxation. According to an Australian Bureau of Statistics survey completed in 2007, one in five Australians experiences a mental disorder each year. Most common are anxiety disorders, like obsessive-compulsive disorder, social anxiety, or panic disorder.

Thankfully, there is a relatively simple salve with more than 40 years of research showing that exposure to nature increases calm, decreases agitation, and improves concentration and creative thought. Writer and I Quit Sugar dynamo, Sarah Wilson, is renowned for her solo hikes – jumping on a train to a national park somewhere out of town and disappearing into the wild for days at a time. She says she returns settled, sated, and full of creative ideas.

Of course, when we’re not on holidays, it’s not always possible to plant ourselves in a national park. In this sense, urban greenery is more important than ever before.

Zoe Myers, an Urban Design Specialist at the University of Western Australia, says research shows that city dwellers have a 20% higher chance of suffering anxiety and an almost 40% higher chance of developing depression. Fortunately, research also shows that people in urban areas who live closest to the greatest green space are much less likely to suffer poor mental health.

The benefits of urban greening are endless – cooler cities in summer, warmer cities in winter, slower stormwater runoff, filtering of air pollution, habitat for animals, happier people, and more prosperous local economies. If you can, take a trip to a national park and soak in the natural goodness. But, when you’re back at work, don’t forget to take lunch in the park – toes in the grass, breeze in your hair, eyes on the branches above.

Source: http://www.smh.com.au/comment/keep-calm-reasons-to-head-for-the-park-not-the-beach-20171223-h09pzg.html