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Looking at Trees Can Reduce Problematic Cravings

Julia Bruchez
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Having a view of greenery or access to a garden or park is linked to lower frequency and strength of cravings, study finds.

If you've heard about "forest bathing," you know that scientific evidence backs up the healing power of spending time in nature. Now researchers have found that just being able to view nature can have a salubrious effect; this time, in decreased cravings for alcohol, cigarettes and harmful foods.

The study, led by the University of Plymouth, is the first to show that even just passive exposure – like looking out the window at green space – is linked to weaker and less frequent craving.

"It has been known for some time that being outdoors in nature is linked to a person's wellbeing," said lead researcher Leanne Martin. "But for there to be a similar association with cravings from simply being able to see green spaces adds a new dimension to previous research. This is the first study to explore this idea, and it could have a range of implications for both public health and environmental protection programmes in the future."

The researchers looked at a number of variables exploring "the relationships between various aspects of nature exposure, craving and negative affect," notes the University.

"Among other things, it measured the proportion of greenspace in an individual's residential neighbourhood, the presence of green views from their home, their access to a garden or allotment; and their frequency of use of public greenspaces."

The team found that having access to a garden – or having a residential view of which more than 25 percent was greenspace – was associated with both lower craving strength and frequency. Physical activity was taken into consideration to ensure that the positive effect was not affected by activity level.

"Craving contributes to a variety of health-damaging behaviours such as smoking, excessive drinking and unhealthy eating," said Dr Sabine Pahl. "In turn, these can contribute to some of the greatest global health challenges of our time, including cancer, obesity and diabetes. Showing that lower craving is linked to more exposure to green spaces is a promising first step. Future research should investigate if and how green spaces can be used to help people withstand problematic cravings, enabling them to better manage cessation attempts in the future."

The researchers also point out that this may serve as further inspiration to protect and invest more in urban green spaces.

Credit: Treehugger.com