Be Immersed In Green

Be Immersed In Green

21 March, 2017
Be Free From Gloom!
Dr. Winnie Tang, Founder and Chairman of the Conservation E3 Foundation
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The MTR arson that occurred in February has aroused people’s concern for the mental and emotional health of the general public. In Hong Kong, people are living in a fast-paced environment, they are under stress at work, and the number of emotional disorders is increasing. According to a survey conducted by the Mental Health Association of Hong Kong at the end of 2016, 5.5% of the respondents were suffering from depression, while 9.1% of the respondents were classified as a "group that requires medical attention" and more than 9% of the respondents had suicidal thoughts. The situation is very serious.

As we all know, a major cause of mental disorders and emotional illnesses is stress, so how to cope with stress has become a major issue. A study by Stanford University in the United States showed that participating in greenery activities could reduce anxiety and enhance memory, allowing for better work performance.

Since it is commonly known that outdoor sport is good for health, Dutch researchers wanted to find out whether it is the outdoor element or sport itself that is more beneficial. They carried out an interesting test: they installed sensors on 46 university students to monitor their cardiovascular condition, and had them view two kinds of photos on a computer screen: a quiet city scene, such as a car parking lot or street; and a corner in an urban park with green trees or grass.

After watching the photos, the student participated in the well-known Montreal Imaging Stress Task (MIST) to answer a series of complex mathematics questions, and the computer adjusted the difficulty to slightly above the individual’s ability, to induce stress. Annoying sounds or screen indicators were also used to irritate the participants. These measures aimed to increase the participant's heartbeat and keep them under stress. After answering the questions for 5 minutes, the students watched the two types of photos again for 5 minutes, and then returned to the test, a process that was repeated several times in order to observe their heartbeats. The result is quite astonishing: when faced with difficulties and pressure, those viewing solely urban green space images have a lower heartbeat and feel at peace!

That just looking at photos has such an influence, we can imagine that the effect would be more significant when we walk into a park or participate in planting.

Plants can relieve pressure. There are various small, delicate and easy to keep potted plants that you can place in your home or office for a healing effect. You can also consider renting a city gardening lot from the government or relevant association. Currently, there are over 100 leisure farms in Hong Kong where you can experience weekend farming. Becoming a city farmer for just a day is a great occasion for both relaxation and exercise for the whole family.

In addition to keeping potted plants and green photos, you may also wish to watch the magnificent green scenery of the outdoors in the spring. Getting out an enjoying the green scenery could help sweep away depression and get rid of gloom.

To encourage young people to get closer to nature, the Conservation E3 Foundation will launch a project called Tree Adoption Program (TAP), aiming to use an interactive learning platform to allow students to learn more and be more aware of trees through investigative study, while also helping them to relax.

By: Dr. Winnie Tang
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