Contact with nature spaces was recently linked to better moods, according to an article published by the British Ecological Society (BES). Examinations of social media posts by people who frequent green spaces showed fewer instances of negative vocabulary. In many ways, colors affect the mind.
According to the BES article, scientists recently sent test subjects through San Francisco’s regional parks to see how being around nature affected mood, outlook, and more. Their gauge was the subjects’ Twitter accounts. Remarkably, the scientists found that people who spent time in “green spaces” used negation words like “no,” “don’t,” and “not” less frequently than the average person. Advertising agents have long known that various colors bring subconscious emotions to mind, so what are the effects of being around nature and all that green?
Words with Fronds
The color green goes far beyond a stroll through the park, although it is one of the most common colors we see in nature. “Historically speaking, green has been used to symbolize fertility, life, and renewal,” said Professor William Lidwell, Director of Innovation and Development at the Stuff Creators Design Studio. “The etymological root of the word green is the Germanic word for grow, and this, no doubt, links the human experience of observing growth of green grasses, trees, and other vegetation.”
Professor Lidwell also mentioned how many connotations the color green has. We say someone is green with envy, or when they’re sick they look green around the gills, but at the same time, we consider skilled gardeners to have green thumbs and when people move on, especially in their career, they’re said to be going to greener pastures.
“Green has evolved a complex set of mixed meanings—a combination of biologically rooted and socially conditioned meanings,” Professor Lidwell said. “And yet, the color green, because of its strong and obvious association with nature, has a coherence amongst its meanings not found with the other colors.”
A Piece of the Green Puzzle
Science hasn’t pinned down exactly why we find the color green so aesthetically pleasing, or why it brightens our moods, but our own prehistory offers a clue. “We know that our Pleistocene ancestors spent a good deal of time on the savannas in eastern Africa,” Professor Lidwell said. “In these contexts, being drawn to areas of lush vegetation makes survival sense—it’s a good indicator that there’s a source of water and food.”
Lush vegetation is generally green. “So the idea that tribes of early humans who are drawn to the green oasis on the horizon, who were able to associate green with rich resources of food and water, well, they had a selective advantage over the tribes that didn’t,” Professor Lidwell said. “The green-seeking tribes reproduced; the non-green-seeking tribes died off. And today, this instinctive attraction to lush vegetation and one of its key ingredients—the color green—is something to which we are instinctively drawn, something we find intrinsically beautiful.”
And as we’re seeing today, experimental research of the benefits of being in nature is piling up. “There is a growing body of evidence that suggests that being outdoors in natural environments has restorative powers,” Professor Lidwell said. “It reduces stress and restores cognitive performance in a way that other forms of rest and relaxation fail to accomplish.”
Professor William Lidwell contributed to this article. Professor Lidwell lectures at the Gerald D. Hines College of Architecture at the University of Houston. He also serves as Director of Innovation and Development at the Stuff Creators Design Studio in Houston, Texas. He earned his B.A. in Psychology from Texas State University and his M.S. in Interaction and Instructional Design from the University of Houston-Clear Lake.