There are numerous benefits of connecting with nature. New research shows that being able to see green spaces from your home is associated with reduced cravings for alcohol, cigarettes, and harmful foods.
The study published in the Journal of Health & Place is the first to demonstrate that passive exposure to nearby green space is linked to both lower frequencies and strengths of craving.It builds on previous research suggesting exercising in nature can reduce cravings, by demonstrating the same may be true irrespective of physical activity.
Researchers say the findings add to evidence that point to the need to protect and invest in green spaces within towns and cities, in order to maximise the public health benefits they may afford. They also suggested the causality of this link needs to be investigated further.
The study is the first to investigate the relationship between exposure to natural environments, craving for a range of appetitive substances and the experiencing of negative emotions or feelings.
“It has been known for some time that being outdoors in nature is linked to a person’s wellbeing. But for there to be a similar association with cravings from simply being able to see green spaces adds a new dimension to previous research. This is the first study to explore this idea, and it could have a range of implications for both public health and environmental protection programs in the future,” said the lead author of the study, Leanne Martin.
Among other things, the study measured the proportion of green space in an individual’s residential neighborhood, the presence of green views from their home, their access to a garden or allotment; and their frequency of use of public greenspaces.
The results showed that having access to a garden or allotment was associated with both lower craving strength and frequency, while residential views incorporating more than 25% greenspace evoked similar responses.The study also measured physical activity undertaken within the same time frame that cravings were assessed, showing the reduced craving occurred irrespective of physical activity level.
“Craving contributes to a variety of health-damaging behaviors such as smoking, excessive drinking, and unhealthy eating. In turn, these can contribute to some of the greatest global health challenges of our time, including cancer, obesity, and diabetes. Showing that lower craving is linked to more exposure to green spaces is a promising first step. Future research should investigate if and how green spaces can be used to help people withstand problematic cravings, enabling them to better manage cessation attempts in the future,” added Dr Sabine Pahl, one of the researchers of the study.