Designing for Health and Well-Being
There is a time-honored proverb that says, “Every cloud has a silver lining.” The origin of this phrase dates back to 1634 and can be found in John Milton’s classic poem, Comus where he writes, "Was I deceived? or did a sable cloud/Turn forth her silver lining on the night?" 

Over time, these poetic lines have come to be words of hope, used to offer support and comfort during moments of turmoil and despair. A silver lining is a harbinger for optimism, a positive in an otherwise negative situation.

The silver lining metaphor is particularly appropriate for this month’s newsletter as we recognize National Mental Health Awareness Month. In this issue we cast the spotlight on two mental health issues that have become public health crises in the wake of Covid-19 – burnout among healthcare workers and sky rocketing rates of depression, anxiety, and suicide among youth. Although these topics are disturbing and unsettling there is a silver lining. See how nature has become the silver lining for the Covid-19 pandemic.
Health Care Workers' Burnout: Could Nature be the Antidote?
In a national survey administered to 12,881 nurses during the height of the pandemic, 44% of respondents reported that the most helpful thing they do to deal with burnout is “spending time in nature.” And when asked what they either hope to begin or will continue to do for burnout recovery, an even higher percentage (57%) said “exposure to nature.”
Youth and Mental Health: The Covid Generation
During the pandemic cases of depression and anxiety doubled among teens while overall mental health–related emergency department visits increased. ER visits for suspected suicide attempts climbed to 51% for adolescent girls. Evidence shows that reducing outside activities during the pandemic was linked to higher levels of emotional distress among youth.
5 Tips for Getting Outside
  1. Explore a local park. Dallas ranks 53rd in the Trust for Public Land 2022 ParkScore, but according to the ranking, 73% of city residents live within a 10-minute walk to a park. So, if you live in the area, one shouldn’t be too far away.
  2. Use an app. The Nature Dose app is a personalized ‘nature prescription tracker’ that monitors your time spent inside and outside, along with your exposure to nature. 
  3. Take a hike. Of course, there’s an app for that too. Find trails verified by 35 million other explorers with AllTrails.  
  4. The heat in Texas alone is stressful, find a fog fountain or mist garden.
  5. And finally, kids need nature too. According to the National Forest Foundation, you should pack a backpack for each kiddo with all their necessities when you venture outdoors. Also, have adaptive plans, SUNSCREEN, water, and most importantly don’t forget the snacks! 
Diversity Bias Found in Environmental Science Research 
A new study shows that a rapidly-growing environmental science field—which measures nature's effects on human well-being—has a diversity problem. Assessing 174 peer-reviewed studies from 2010 to 2020, researchers at the University of Vermont found that study participants were overwhelmingly white, and that BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) communities were strongly underrepresented. They also found that there was an inherent cultural bias in this corpus of work, noting that there was a tendency to conceptualize and define human-nature relationships with values that are western focused and may not capture the worldview of indigenous communities. 
Commenting on the implications of these findings, the authors emphasize that while there is “nothing necessarily wrong with the existing findings" … they may not apply to the entire population. They call for future research to be more mindful of capturing diversity so that findings can be universally applied, and cultural boundaries determined.

Sofia Quaglia “Studies on nature’s mental health benefits shows ‘massive’ western bias.” The Guardian, May 5, 2022.  

What we're reading...

As a society we suffer from nature deficit disorder, but studies have shown that spending mindful, intentional time around trees--what the Japanese call shinrin-yoku, or forest bathing--can promote health and happiness.
Did you have this email forwarded to you from a friend or colleague? Subscribe below! Be on the lookout for this newsletter once a any special announcements.