According to Dr Ledivia Strauss, integrative medical practitioner and owner of Revitahealth in the Western Cape, the connection between mental health and access to nature has long been established, but the extent to which green and blue spaces impact our health and mental well-being is now being extensively researched.

As part of Dr Strauss’ ongoing efforts to promote healthy living, she shares her insights on how a new development project in the Western Cape, through its prioritising of green and blue spaces, is encouraging metabolic health and potentially setting the benchmark for future mixed-use property developments in South Africa for ideal living and working conditions.

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The BlueHealth2020 project, published in November 2020, was the largest study of its kind, analysing data from 18 different countries, and found that people who lived within one kilometre of green spaces, such as parks or forests, experienced less anxiety and depression.

One study of almost 20 0000 people found that access to green spaces reduced the likelihood of depression by up to 26%. Other studies have shown that exposure to nature can improve cognitive function, reduce stress levels and even lower blood pressure.

But it’s not just green spaces that are important for mental health; blue spaces, such as rivers, lakes and one kilometre of the coast reported better mental health than those who lived further inland.

I believe that the pandemic has highlighted the need for people to have daily access to nature. We have been stuck in our homes for too long and we need to reconnect with the outdoors to boost our overall well-being

I cannot emphasise enough the importance of incorporating natural spaces into our daily routines, with even a walk in the park during a lunch break having the potential to improve one’s mood, blood glucose and productivity.

This trend has the potential to make waterways the new highways and parks will become people’s new living rooms.

Ultimately, if we are not thinking about and focusing on how we can live as long as possible, in good health, then we are missing the point. And this is where the secret lies… to improve health span together with lifespan.

That’s why I’m excited to be involved in a project that draws on the impact that blue and green spaces have on our everyday lives.

Squareturn Developments – the team responsible for the Winelands’ latest development around the benefits of holistic health through the onsite connection to blue and green spaces.

With plenty of blue skies and natural green landscapes, a man-made lake and ponds rich in bird life, along with a multitude of mountain biking, trail running, eFoiling and other activities soon to be made available at the heart of this development, Devonbosch is offering South Africans more than just an impressive array of recreational pursuits.

This development aims to provide South Africans with an environment that epitomises healthy destination living through unlimited life and work offerings.

By recognising the positive change that can be created by a development built around the advancement of holistic well-being, mental and metabolic health, the result is a village of the future.

Blending small-town conveniences with big-thinking architecture and eco-designed open spaces, it also encourages walkability and sustainability, seamlessly weaving green living and nature into every day.

However, while Squareturn Developments is paving the way in Africa for its unapologetic stance on mental health and well-being in the development space, it’s not alone in recognising the importance of blue and green spaces in our lives.

Cities around the world are starting to prioritise green and blue spaces as part of their urban planning. For example, Paris pledged to create 100 hectares of new green spaces by 2022, and New York City has launched the ‘Cool Neighbourhoods NYC’ initiative, which aims to increase the number of trees, green roofs and other green infrastructure in neighbourhoods that are particularly vulnerable to extreme heat.

It’s clear that the benefits of green and blue spaces on overall health and well-being are significant, and more and more people are recognising the importance of incorporating these spaces into their daily lives.

While more projects and efforts internationally are underway on how we can design our cities and communities to prioritise access to nature, it’s encouraging to see developments like Devonbosch on our home ground paving the way to provide a blueprint for how we can experience life and work in harmony with the natural world.

After all, nature is our best antidepressant, and we need to start treating it as such.

Written by Dr Ledivia Strauss.

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