Emotional Health · Lifestyle

International Happiness Day: Color Us Green With Happiness

fordCecilia Ford, who has been a psychologist in private practice in New York City since 1987, has addressed emotional issues for Women’s Voices in many articles over the years.



They say it’s the little things that make us happy, and while that may not always be true, they certainly can make a difference. In honor of “International Happiness Day,” today, March 20, it might make sense to take some time to think about what increases your sense of well-being and contentment. Medical professionals now have a wealth of evidence proving that physical health is closely tied to our level of emotional satisfaction, yet psychologists did not begin investigating this area until the past 20 years or so. As with physical medicine, many of the most important ideas in psychology grew out of the study of pathology. The urgent need to heal the sick took precedence over the question of how to increase “wellness.”

Physical and mental “hygiene” are both very much in the forefront, however, now that at least most Western nations do not have to worry about the constant threat of infectious disease. Not only have we increased the human lifespan, we are avidly studying how those years can be spent with greater health and well-being.

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This week The New York Times reported that “greenery” can help with this effort. Gretchen Reynolds writes:

A study from Stanford last year, for example, found that young adults who walked for an hour through campus parkland were less anxious afterward and performed better on a test of working memory than if they had strolled along a busy street. Precisely what is going on inside our bodies as we move through the greenery is largely unknown, however. It hasn’t even been made clear that nature itself is responsible for the greatest health benefits — they may come instead from physical activity, sunlight or, if you stroll with others, camaraderie. Now a new study published in The International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health takes a step toward sorting these interactions out by focusing on pictures of the outdoors rather than on the real thing.”

The study revealed that just looking at pictures of greenery had a measurable effect on the subjects’ stress level. As the principal investigator of the study, Magdalena van den Berg, said:

‘‘Finding an effect with regard to such weak, even boring visual stimuli — no spectacular green views, no sound, no smells et cetera — is surprising.” The effects would probably be magnified, she says, if someone could visit nature or even look out a window and see actual greenery.”

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  • Andrea March 21, 2016 at 12:26 pm

    I often get the chance to walk through Central Park. It’s hard to believe we are on the middle of all the chaos of ny city. The sights and sounds of nature truly have a relaxing and positive effect on my state of mind. It clears my head and makes me happy !?

  • roz warren March 20, 2016 at 8:56 am

    I woke up happy this morning. Now I know why!