The pursuit of happiness

Greenbelt’s Donald Ferguson leads the way in study of greenspaces

Congratulations to our Regional Operations Manager Donald Ferguson.

Donald’s study into the psychological benefits of greenspaces has been accepted by the prestigious Landscape Institute for their Landscape and Wellbeing International Conference in Lisbon.

It will also be published in their journal.

The study was titled ‘Green Exercise: Varying Psychological Effects of Differing Environments on Runners’ and its aim was to see if different environments affected the wellbeing of participants who exercised there.

By assessing the psychological effects of varying environments on runners, the goal was to gain information particularly relating to environment and wellbeing – and not confuse this with the positive effect of the exercise itself.

The study compared environments people often run in, from city streets to treadmills and urban parks to mountains.

It compared responses using questionnaires and analysed the difference between each environment under three concepts of environmental psychology: Attachment, Reflection and Identity.

Evidence was found that suggested there were significant differences between environments.

Although limited in scope, the project points to potential further studies on what environments can trigger positive effects.

Such work may well inform the future design of greenspaces and directly affect policy making.

Donald, who has a BSc (HONS) Horticulture, says: “‘The idea our wellbeing is linked to the quality of our greenspaces seems instinctive to many of us. Indeed, the study of the connections between environments and health dates back to ancient cities in Greece, China and Persia.

“In a time when western societies are facing growing mental health problems and other stress-related issues there has been an increased recognition of the important connection between landscape and mental health.

“The exact nature of this relationship and connection is something that is now being tackled by many researchers in different fields and I am delighted to contribute towards this and keen to research more in the future.

“It is also an area I feel relates directly to what we do here at Greenbelt – managing woodlands and greenspaces for the benefit of all our residents to provide an outlet for not just the physical benefits of using public open spaces but for psychological benefits as well.”

Donald will be presenting his findings to the conference on May 3-5.