SUMMIT, NJ — Everyone needs a way to cope with life’s challenges. One coping strategy that has proven remarkably effective is being in nature. Exposure to nature not only makes us feel better emotionally, but it also contributes to our physical well-being. According to public health researchers Stamatakis and Mitchell, it may even reduce mortality. Research done in hospitals, offices, and schools have found that even a simple plant in a room can have a significant impact on stress and anxiety. Nature also helps us cope with pain. More recent studies have shown similar results with scenes from nature and plants in hospital rooms.
Reeves-Reed Arboretum is honored to be the recipient of a $10,000 grant from the Overlook Foundation with the goal of establishing a community mental health initiative titled the Overlook Two Hour Nature Time. The initiative inspires residents throughout the extended Summit community to visit Reeves-Reed Arboretum on a weekly basis for at least two hours a week throughout the year to find peace, solitude and a haven from daily stressors. According to a 2019 article in the New York Times, “A wealth of research indicates that escaping to a neighborhood park, hiking through the woods, or spending a weekend by the lake can lower a person’s stress levels, decrease blood pressure, and reduce the risk of asthma, allergies, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease while boosting mental health and increasing life expectancy … Two hours a week was the threshold for both men and women, older and younger adults, different ethnic groups, people living in richer or poorer areas and even for those living with long term illnesses.”
Reeves-Reed Arboretum will promote this program weekly through extensive marketing efforts including their website, newsletters, social media channels, mailing lists and community partnerships with schools and other community organizations, as well as via additional online and print avenues, explaining the importance and mental health benefits of visiting nature on a weekly basis. This effort will also include providing free garden tours from April through October and providing self-guiding nature walk brochures for guests.
Reeves-Reed Arboretum also endeavors to gather and share feedback from visitors about their positive experiences after visiting the gardens and grounds. “During the pandemic, we stayed open every day (with limited) hours, but we were determined to be here for people who needed a break, who needed to get outside, have fresh air and feel safe,” said Reeves-Reed Arboretum’s executive director, Jackie Kondel. “A local resident shared with me that visiting the Arboretum during the pandemic ‘saved her life.’ Another shared that when she brought her handicapped brother here for a visit, he said he felt like it was his birthday. It wasn’t easy for us to stay open with no funds coming in, but we wanted to be here for the community during this troubling and stressful time, and this new mental health initiative continues our commitment to this community and beyond, to offer a place of health, hope and healing for all who need it.”
Photos Courtesy of Doreen Schindler