Experiencing nature and green spaces has a range of positive effects on us (reduced stress, depression, and anxiety). Yet the specific implications are still being discovered. There’s a growing body of research on the benefits of nature on mental wellbeing, offering brands many possibilities to add meaning to the lives of their customers.
An Australian study even found that people’s odds of loneliness can fall by up to half if cities hit 30% green space targets. From 2013 onward, the study followed a group of 6,766 adults who were not lonely at the time. During the years, they assessed the association between urban green space availability within 1,6 kilometers of home and the cumulative incidence of loneliness reported four years later. The effects show people with 30% of green space around them were significantly less lonely compared to people with around 10%, this effect is the strongest among people that live alone; decreasing the odds of loneliness by 52%. The actual mechanics behind the link between nature and loneliness are not yet clear. One explanation might be that nature is experienced as a non-judgemental source of support, possibly in the absence of other people.
A 2020 review of nearly 200 scientific studies asked the question: “Can simulated nature support mental health?”. The answer was yes. The exposure of nature in virtual reality (VR) settings are able to provide a range of emotional wellbeing benefits for people who cannot access the outdoors. In a separate 2010 study, similar conclusions were found. A virtual forest setting was able to lower the blood pressure of stress-induced participants in the experiment.
The studies propose a range of opportunities for brands. With the growing focus on mental health and loneliness, nature experiences can provide vital comfort. Such support from brands is in high demand among consumers: a recent survey found 48% of Gen Z respondents said they expect brands to provide resources to help consumers, like access to mental health support. This poses an important opportunity to be meaningful in the lives of their customers. For example, Timberland is making an effort with their ‘Urban Greening’ project to create green spaces in cities around the world. Like their initiative in Amsterdam.