The environment is something we are all familiar with. When we refer to the environment we are referring to our surroundings, everything around us.
The environment exists on a macro and micro level. Think about the immediate surroundings like home, work and school, then broaden out to the neighborhood and the entire city where we reside, the country and then the entire planet and beyond.
At each level environmental factors impact our health and wellbeing and how we engage with our lives. We humans also have a massive impact on our environment with our choices and actions. There is an important connection between the two that influences how we live on a daily basis.
Personal environment and your health and wellbeing
When referring to our personal environment, it includes all the places that we spend a considerable amount of time. For most it’s the home and for others it’s work or school. Our home environment has the most immediate impact on our health and wellbeing. What is great about this is that we all have some control over this environment.
Impacts on our health and wellbeing
- The air quality can be impacted by the heating/ventilation, common chemicals used to clean the house, mold, dust and cigarette smoke.
- How much access does your home have to public transport, shops and other people? Loneliness and isolation are prevalent in areas where there is limited access to essential services.
- Sound and visual fields such as noisy traffic and airplanes, construction sites, barking dogs or a blaring stereo. The cleanliness of the streets such as garbage, dirt and stray animals.
Built and physical environment
The built environment refers to the human-made surroundings that provide the setting for human activity, ranging in scale from buildings and parks or green space to neighborhoods and cities that can often include their supporting infrastructure, such as water supply or energy networks. It includes broad features of urban layout such as building designs, the width of streets, trees, housing, and parking and the provision of transport facilities for road, rail, tram, bicycle, pedestrians and air and sea traffic. The built environment is a human made space where people live, work and recreate.
Impacts on our health and wellbeing
- The layout and design of our cities and neighbourhoods provide us opportunity to engage in activities outside of the home. Imagine if we didn’t have schools, shops or cafes. This impacts how we connect to others, where we find work, meaning and purpose everyday.
- We build a connection with the places we live, work and play. This connection can be a positive or a negative one, maybe a mix. The place where we live impacts how we feel about our environment.
- It provides a sense of belonging, gives meaning and purpose to our daily lives.
- Living in an environment where access to affordable housing, essential services, clean water, transport and community are essential for our social and emotional, and physical health and wellbeing.
The Natural Environment
How great is it when we see a beautiful sunset; we stop in amazement and awe admiring its natural beauty? Or when we see a mountainous view and can see far into the distance, or seeing an animal in its natural habitat?
It generally leaves us feeling good, a little more relaxed and at ease.
When referring to the natural environment, it’s all things natural: the ‘non-built’ environment so this includes air, water, earth, vegetation and animals. Humans are part of nature and we interact with it in many ways. It’s essential for our survival.
Over the last decade our interactions with the natural world have decreased and changed. We spend a lot more time in front of screens and our technology usage has increased. Depression is on the rise and screen usage is a contributing factor.
How this impacts on our health and wellbeing
- TV Screens and too much technology are impacting how much time we get outside and interact with nature. Instead we are moving less and spending more time alone. Moderating how much time we spend doing either is a good balance.
- Nature is healing and soothing. It helps reduce feelings of anger, fear and stress. It makes us feel better emotionally and gets us outside and moving physically.
- Nature restores. We feel recharged and re-energised after spending time in nature. We can escape the hustle and bustle and take time out for ourselves.
- We feel more connected after spending time in nature. We feel connected to others, the natural environment, and ourselves.
Our surroundings connect us; it provides us with opportunities to engage with others, to be social, to create, to explore and to learn. We build a connection with the environment. It influences our daily activities, our mood, our relationships and how much time we spend travelling from place to place. It impacts on our senses, emotions and opportunity to connect and participate in community life. The way we treat our environment equally impacts on our health and wellbeing. The way we take care of animals, parks, forests and the ocean influence the environment where we live. Spend as much time as possible outside in nature, its good for the mind, body and soul.
Catch up on the rest of our ‘Building a Healthy Lifestyle’ series here.