The Mental Health Benefits of a Well-Maintained Commercial Landscape

Posted by Joseph Barnes on May 14, 2024 4:55:29 PM

May is Mental Health Awareness Month, and everyone can benefit from becoming more aware of this critical health issue that touches our co-workers, friends, family, and neighbors. 

Unfortunately, it's taken our society a long time to realize that mental health is as important as physical health. It also took years to learn how beneficial it is to be around nature, including plants, flowers, and trees in commercial spaces. 

So in this article we’re deep-diving into some of the many ways green spaces improve mental well-being.

A Well-Kept Commercial Landscape Works Wonders

In the past, managers had no idea about the relationship between employees’ mental health and the difference it can make in their effectiveness within the workplace. Today, poor mental health is known to hamper productivity, and we see how it leads to high turnover.

But there’s hope on the horizon as awareness has increased about the importance and obligation of employers to provide for their employees’ mental health (tip of the cap to the younger generations who’ve shown leadership in this effort). Providing well-planned and maintained commercial green spaces when a large nature area isn’t available is a cost-effective and very visible way to show employees how you care for them. 

The good news? It only takes a small dose of natural beauty and awe to make positive impacts. 

You could even view a well-kept green area as part of your employees’ benefit package. After all, well-being is a goal of company healthcare plans, right? Often, counseling is, too. So it makes sense on a human and financial level to use a quality landscape to reduce stress, improve mental well-being, and increase productivity.

The Connection Between Green Spaces and Mental Wellness

Build it, and they will come (with some encouragement). Commercial property owners and managers have the chance to provide an improved environment for employees, students, residents, and guests. Quality green spaces attract people naturally, but a nudge from leadership always helps.

Some of the mental health benefits green spaces provide are:

  • Being a buffer against negative life events
  • Green exercise outranks indoor exercise for mental well-being
  • Office workers’ accuracy rises working outdoors 
  • Can help with skin allergies like stressful eczema
  • Children’s stress levels drop within minutes of seeing a green space

We encourage our clients to pass along these benefits to the people using your commercial spaces. It’s also wise to get them involved in choosing how they’d like to use green areas. This creates engagement and helps with landscape planning. 

For example, some clients have asked us to adjust our maintenance schedule to give leeway to a new outdoor yoga group at a hospital courtyard. Or it could be a meditation class that HOA members or apartment residents start. Seeing people utilize landscaped spaces is a terrific sign for property owners, and a responsible landscape partner will do all they can to accommodate the use of the spaces we maintain.


Hidden Spiritual Benefits of Green Spaces

Nature has been a quintessential part of the human experience throughout recorded history. We’re only now discovering all the mental health improvements Mother Nature holds. 

We humans have been on this planet for a long time, and for most of that history, we have lived close to nature. Only in the past few hundred years have we distanced ourselves via urban living.

This could explain if you take a moment to mull it over… why many of your most joyful moments probably happened outdoors. And likely your most memorable adventures, too. 

Plants, shrubs, and trees help us recover more quickly, too, according to these findings:

  • Hospital patients recover more quickly with a view of outdoor greenery
  • Areas with green spaces see healthier birth outcomes
  • Green spaces have been shown to help relieve migraines 

The Calming Effect of Greenery on the Nervous System

Our separation from the natural world may help explain why our nervous system gets sidetracked for no apparent reason sometimes. Most of us have felt down or gloomy without an obvious cause. Or we start feeling anxious when everything is going fine. It makes no sense, right? 

Living in modern, unnatural environments may be partially to blame for these feelings—a regulated nervous system shifting to a deregulated nervous system - an involuntary reaction to internal or external stimuli. 

There’s no question that we’re overstimulated today, as various studies reveal:

  • College students could only focus on a task for 65 seconds on average
  • Office workers managed to focus for only about 3 minutes
  • Overstimulation from modern stimuli (junk food, screens and scrolling, plugged in 24/7) can lead to addictive behaviors

And 47% of adults say that “deep thinking” has become a thing of the past. Still, there’s hope. 

Green areas have been shown to enhance children’s brain development as well as a calming effect on their nervous systems. Adults see similar results as commercial garden areas can renew fatigued minds (attention restoration theory). Plus, problem-solving abilities rise. 

These findings suggest that well-maintained commercial landscapes are universally beneficial to mankind—children, adults, and seniors.


Creating Spaces for Reflection, Meditation, and Prayer

The bad news is that modern humans don’t have it all figured out. The good news? Half the battle is accepting that we have room to improve.

Thankfully, we have proven ways to search for the answers we don’t yet have. Prayer, meditation, and reflection can help for some; those activities are best done in a peaceful space.

With innovative commercial landscaping designs, you have many options to make peace-filled areas available to employees, patients, guests, and residents.

These include:

Again, encouraging people to use these quiet areas of your property goes a long way. 

Many people can’t imagine the mental health benefits of quiet time under a shade tree.  Their attention’s been captured by technology and other devices designed for that purpose— to fill in the quiet times. They don’t have a free moment to even consider that they need a quiet space.

Community buy-in can help here, too. Co-workers could invite others to take advantage of green spaces, using the incentives of natural wonder and beauty and the creativity boost they have likely experienced.

Leveraging the APA’s Findings: Practical Applications

The American Psychological Association’s research says it all when it comes to proven mental health benefits of green spaces:

  • Green views near children’s homes promote self-control.
  • Exposure to urban environments is linked to attention deficits.
  • When people with low social connectedness had high levels of nearby nature, they reported heightened well-being.
  • Just a few moments of green can perk up a tired brain from dull, attention-draining tasks.

These findings showed that landscaping doesn’t have to be elaborate. Even isolated pockets of greenery can have a meaningful impact.

“Spending time in nature can act as a balm for our busy brains.” ~

(Three case studies below offer more evidence alongside the internal evidence of how we all feel when we’re closer to the natural world.)

So, how can you use this knowledge in your commercial spaces?

First, you can achieve these positive results on almost any budget. All you need is a willingness to use your awareness of this issue to make a difference in the lives of everyone using your property. Then talk to them to get input on what they would find beneficial in newly landscaped areas. 

It’s amazing what happens when you talk with people. And “talking” is our last key point. 

People need people more than ever. Loneliness is an American epidemic. So much so that lack of social connection is now deemed as unhealthy as smoking a pack of cigarettes daily. Apparently, the mental health damage of isolation goes on to erode one’s physical health. 

More people live alone in the U.S. than ever before. It’s worse in large metros (The Hill reports singles make up over 40% of households in Atlanta, Seattle, San Francisco, Minneapolis, and Denver. In Manhattan, half of all dwellings are one-person residences).

Investing in green gathering spaces encourages social interaction and connection. Build beauty, and they will come - together, is the hope.

Three Case Studies:

Salesforce Tower, San Francisco: Features a 5.4-acre public park at the base of the building. Lush greenery, water features, and walking paths provide employees and visitors access to nature and physical activity. Employees report feeling relaxed and focused while using the park.

Anthropologie Headquarters, Philadelphia: 45,000 square foot rooftop garden that includes walking paths full of greenery. Employees say it helps them recharge and enhances collaboration and creativity. 

Gensler Offices, Los Angeles: Central courtyard garden with lush greenery, water features, and seating areas. Employee stress levels decreased while job satisfaction rose among staff who utilized the space.


Conclusion: Mental Health Benefits Of Commercial Green Spaces

Hopefully, this May will raise more awareness than any Mental Health Awareness Month so far and keep growing year after year. 

People have shown they want more contact with the outdoors than being stuck in digital worlds. Evidence of this? Internet traffic dropped more than 40% in states where people could see the recent solar eclipse. 

The onus is now on those of us with the power to provide green areas and encourage people to take in the daily benefits of well-maintained outdoor spaces.

With that, we’ll end with two requests. The first is most important.

#1 Please take time to enjoy a park, local lake, or garden area this week. Don’t wait until you need to unwind or require mental refreshment. Take in those benefits now—as a preventive measure.

#2 Contact Yellowstone Landscape to discuss commercial landscaping ideas that can improve the mental and physical well-being of the people utilizing your property.

*Sources and extra resources for mental well-being and green spaces:

American Psychological Association

University of New Mexico Chemistry Building

Social isolation harm compared to smoking

12 Aon Center


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Joseph Barnes

About The Author

Joseph Barnes

Joseph Barnes has served as Marketing Manager of Yellowstone Landscape since 2013. He writes on a variety of topics related to the commercial landscaping industry.