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While much noise is being made about climate change and its impact on us and the planet, something else is happening right under our noses that has the potential to reduce our mental well-being.

Australia is blessed to be a continent with one of the highest levels of biodiversity.

It’s also cursed by having one of the world’s highest mammal extinction rates, and we have lost most of our natural forest since colonisation.

This matters because biodiversity contributes to stronger improvements in our mental well-being. It keeps us mentally healthy.

Perhaps you’ve experienced this when out walking, surrounded by trees, plants, and birds chirping.

You feel good.
Your stress levels plummet.

So, where have we been going wrong?

In many cities, we enjoy natural green spaces that provide shelter, coolth and cleaner air.

Many of these spaces also include vast swathes of manicured grass, which, in some places, we’re urged not to walk on, with small signs reminding us to “keep to the path!”

While it’s great to have big open green spaces for rest and recreation, researchers from King’s College London have found that it is those environments with a larger number of natural features, such as trees, plants, birds, and waterways, that are associated with greater mental well-being than those with less natural diversity.

Moreover, the benefit can last for up to 8 hours.

The researchers also found that almost 25% of the positive impact of nature on mental well-being is explained by the diversity of features present.

Our loss of biodiversity is a global issue, and as Andrea Mechelli, Professor of Early Intervention in Mental Health, reminds us, this is an urgent reminder to consider biodiversity in our urban environments as key to benefitting human and planetary health.

Enhancing biodiversity in your own backyard

  1. Reduce the amount of space dedicated to grass and plant more native plants. Look to add those native species that are attractive to insects and birds like bottlebrushes, grevilleas, kangaroo paws and paper daisies. Less grass means less mowing, too!
  2. Got a regular backyard visitor? Here, you can provide water, food and shelter with a birdbath, feeder or nesting box.
  3. Add some understorey species and native grasses beneath trees to create an extra habitat layer for smaller animals and insects.
  4. Install a pond.
  5. Avoid using pesticides or herbicides wherever possible to avoid killing off the insects we want to encourage, like our pollinators.

Stuck for ideas?

Greening Australia‘s website has some great tips, and Conservation Volunteers Australia is running the Nature Blocks Initiative, which they hope will create habitat corridors for wildlife.

There is so much we can all do to support our biodiversity in urban landscapes, which is good for our mental health and well-being.

What will you be doing to support biodiversity in your own backyard?

Dr Jenny Brockis

Dr Jenny Brockis is a medical practitioner and internationally board-certified lifestyle medicine physician, workplace health and wellbeing consultant, keynote speaker and best-selling author. You can now pre-order her new book ‘The Natural Advantage’ due for publication in October 2024.

One Comment

  • Gulten Wagner says:

    Many thanks Jenny,
    Yes the nature is our good medicine!
    I was away too – to the USA very refreshing and enjoyable changing the scenery and the landscape.
    Thanks for the wellbeing websites!
    Gulten Wagner

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