Dubai: Many recognise the power of nature as an elixir that nurtures soul, body and mind, and it positively affects all the dimensions of our well-being at any age. Getting back to nature brings a series of different advantages, so it’s no surprise to see that Dubai has dedicated 60 per cent of its land area to become nature reserves and wildlife sanctuaries as part of the Dubai 2040 Urban Plan.
Sharjah, for its part, has witnessed an increase in forest-like communities where 4,000 villas will being built in New Sharjah's area Masaar, which is surrounded by greenery. We spoke to Elie Mrad, Head of Architecture and Design at Arada, to shed light on the wellness perspective of the benefits associated with living in or close to nature
1. Encourages physical activity
Being surrounded by greenery, beautiful scenery and the quiet of nature motivates individuals to exercise, allows them to increase their self-esteem and to feel more energetic. A key feature in green communities is a long ‘spine’ walkway, which links its districts together and offers an active pedestrian and bicycle network. Shared open spaces help create social wellbeing and foster community ties, and they also help provide the residents with a shared sense of place and ownership.
2. Strengthens social bonds
A study by University of California, Berkeley, revealed that living closer to nature improves social relationships and health, inducing positive thoughts and emotions. For example, the presence of urban farms, rest stops along the course of the cycle track and extensive sporting facilities all allow residents and visitors to interact in different and meaningful ways.
A natural setting helps to improve cohesion and togetherness among family members. It provides families with time to bond and opportunities to reconnect, to get along better with one another, to participate in their communities, and to strengthen parent-child relationships. Living within forest spaces also strengthens the sense of belonging to the community.
The impact goes beyond relationships between individuals and is felt on a wider level; the study also shows that living close to nature can strengthen the sense of belonging to the community, improving social relationships and creating healthier family bonds.
3. Enhances child development
Natural experiences are critical for the development of children as nature allows them to discover, experiment, solve problems and learn to share and collaborate with other children. Additionally, nature introduces them to STEM education and promotes responsibility, independence, creativity and imagination. Even inside their homes, children living close to nature will benefit from access to open spaces.
4. Fortifies mental wellbeing
Stress, anxiety and depression can be eased by the sounds and sights of forest environments, calming nerves and balancing the mind. The forest provides residents a sense of disconnect from hustle and bustle of the city – a sanctuary. Being in contact with nature for just 15 minutes can improve endorphin levels and dopamine production, responsible for increasing happiness, and boost positive emotions.