Every day the adverse effects that the pandemic has generated on us on an emotional level are becoming more evident.
Movement restrictions and face-to-face interaction between people are taking their toll on an emotional level. Stress, loneliness, sadness, anxiety, insomnia … are some of these effects that, on an emotional level, to a greater or lesser extent, we have experienced.
In full confinement, more than ever, we longed for nature. Stroll, explore our natural environments, mountains, parks and coasts. In the first escapes of “freedom”, the environment was our refuge.
Those first walks in the forest or on the beach made us feel free and awakened intense feelings of happiness and inner peace. Now more than ever we need to resort to contact with nature to rediscover our emotional balance, to return to “Life”.
Psychological well-being comprises multiple affective and cognitive components, including happiness, self-actualization, resilience, healthy relationships, and the absence of mental distress (eg, stress and loneliness).
Scientific research has shown that people exposed to certain air pollutants are more likely to suffer from mental health problems. Poorly planned urban environments, with unsustainable transportation systems and lack of access to green areas, increase air pollution, noise and heat, reduce opportunities for physical activities, causing a negative impact on the physical and mental health of people.
Within the framework of the EU Green Week 2021, the event “Mental health, well-being and the environment: Bringing nature back into people’s lives” promoted by Mental Health Europe, IEEP and ISGlobal, was organized in May. presented a study on the nexus of the environment and people’s mental health. Analyzing how European policies and COVID-19 recovery plans can integrate them for a future centered on people and on nature.
The main results of the document indicate that spending time in nature helps reduce anxiety, depression and loneliness, while the lack of green spaces is associated with an increase in symptoms (Maas et al., Cited in Ganzleben and Marnane 2020). Scientific evidence shows an emerging association between certain air pollutants and a number of mental health outcomes, including depression, anxiety, psychosis, dementia, child cognitive development (King 2018).
Policies have been proposed that lead to developing a European Union strategy dedicated to mental health and well-being, with a strong focus on environmental determinants and prevention, as well as allocating investments for such measures within the EU4Health program. Ensure the integration of health and well-being considerations in the implementation of the European Green Deal, in particular by promoting nature-based solutions in local adaptation strategies and urban greening plans, and starting with an analysis of the collateral benefits for health, as part of the next impact evaluations linked to the European Union restoration plan.
It is a priority in the interests of caring for the environment and the health of citizens, promoting initiatives based on nature, to regenerate cities by promoting urban forests, parks and gardens, urban farms, tree-lined streets … generating true green “lungs” in our cities.
In line with these initiatives, on June 1 the event “A healthy environment for healthy lives” was held, promoted by the European Environment Agency, with the aim of highlighting the multiple links between the quality of our environment , the health and well-being of European citizens.
The development of these “green” policies give hope in the achievement of the construction of cities and ecosystems that allow living in healthy, natural environments, also combining the generation of economic development that allows people together to enjoy an optimal quality of life for greater social and educational awareness around caring for the environment.
We are at a key moment in which the Environment is the protagonist, engine, purpose of politics, the economy and the spirit of people who share a vision, the same actions in synchrony and harmony. Let’s make it happen!
POLYMAT General Manager and WAS Partner