Go with the flow: a study shows that canals and rivers improve our mood

Because they encourage physical activity (walking, outdoor sports), improve air quality, reduce perceived stress and strengthen the feeling of belonging to the community, green spaces are good for us. Many studies have identified a positive relationship between the state of health declared by city dwellers and the proximity of their housing to green spaces. By reducing the risk of appearance or aggravation of many chronic diseases, they would even be considered as a source of savings for health insurance systems. But for an even more noticeable effect on well-being, researchers at King’s College London recommend simply combining them with… blue spaces. Their published study in the review PLOS ONE indeed claims that combining blue and green spaces with wildlife has a greater beneficial impact than spending time in an environment with only green spaces.

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To come to this conclusion, the researchers used Urban Mind, a smartphone app, to collect thousands of real-time audits of participants’ location and mental well-being. The results showed positive associations between canal and river visits and mental well-being, as well as a positive experience for feelings of safety and social inclusion compared to all other types of environments (such as indoors or outdoors in an urban environment, or near a green space). “ Canals and rivers contain water but also an abundance of trees and plants, meaning their ability to improve mental well-being is likely due to the multiple benefits associated with green and blue spaces. They are also home to a range of wildlife, and we know from other studies that there is a positive association between wildlife encounters and mental well-being. “Explains Professor Andrea Mechelli, mental health specialist at King’s College London.

If possible live in a place that combines green spaces and bodies of water

He adds: “ Taken collectively, these findings provide an evidence base for what we think about water and well-being and support the proposition that canal and river visits could be part of social prescription regimes, playing a role in mental health support. In addition, the collaborative study with the Canal & River Trust, found that visiting canals and rivers was associated with greater improvement in mental well-being, regardless of age, gender, level of education, ethnicity and diagnosis of a mental health problem. Participants also reported continued improvements in their mental well-being for up to 24 hours after visiting near such a space. “ The powerful mix of blue, green and wildlife-rich spaces shows that, although built for industry, redeveloped canals are in fact among our most important places of health and well-being in our cities and towns. adds Richard Parry, Managing Director of Canal & River Trust.

Dr. Amir Khan, Ambassador of the Canal & River Trust said that ” it’s great to see that scientific studies have confirmed what many of us already intuitively knew: that spending time by the water, and the canals in particular, is good for your well-being. Note that this is not the first study to show how much time spent near a blue space in an urban environment is restorative. A study published in 2020 in the magazine environmental research scientist demonstrated a significant improvement in the participants immediately after their walk in the blue space with regard to their blood pressure and heart rate. The best of all scenarios would be to live in a place that combines green spaces and bodies of water. And why, if possible, practice as often as possible the famous “Ocean Therapy” process which consists of knowing how to let go and empty your mind while concentrating on the sound of the waves that surrounds you.

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Go with the flow: a study shows that canals and rivers improve our mood

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