Most of us know the benefits of being out in nature, but did you know there’s a difference between being in a green space and a blue space? Being in a green park or near blue water bring different feelings of peace that can supply mental and physical health benefits.

With the holiday season rush packing already busy schedules, nurses should take some time to decompress. Having a busy, engaging, and exhausting job is something nurses typically thrive on, but even the most energized nurse can get worn out during these next few weeks.

Maybe you need a little green or blue space to quiet your mind and energize your soul. If you suffer from depression, anxiety, or a general low mood in the winter, getting outside helps.

It’s obvious to just about anyone—being outside boosts your mood. But depending on where you live, you can’t always have access to green or blue space when you want it. Landlocked states don’t have the ocean’s coastline, but there are other ways you can reap the benefits of blue space—even if you’ve never seen the ocean. Green space is a little easier to find, and finding a new green space is always fun.

Green space can be as big as an open prairie or as small as a garden near your workplace—the important result is how it makes you feel. Urban green spaces are essential for city dwellers who may not have easy access to larger green areas.

A few minutes spent breathing in the fresh air, seeing the open sky, hearing birds or the wind in the trees, and feeling the green grass brings a sense of well-being and peace. Parks, open landscapes, and your own backyard all occupy the green space definition and bring a host of positive feelings.

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Blue spaces are different. Open oceans, waterscapes, lakes, rivers, ponds, shorelines, even a fountain offer an interaction with water that is soothing. Even states hundreds of miles from the ocean will have bodies of water that offer similar benefits.

Blue spaces, with all their beautiful views, sounds, and positive ions from the water, also tend to encourage physical activity. Any kind of outdoor exercise is good for getting the heart rate up and bringing a sense of calm, and people tend to congregate around water to get moving. Walking, playing in the water, jogging along the shore, or swimming all help bring a sense of calm and lower blood pressure, reduce anxiety, and offer a protective benefit for mental health.

As a nurse, you can seek out green or blue spaces and see if it helps your stress levels or see if it boosts your feelings of well-being. Patients might find the correlation between green and blue spaces and better overall mental health interesting enough to ask for more information. And it’s fairly easy to incorporate into your routine. Walk through a park on your lunch break, take in a scenic vista whenever you can, take a trip to your local pond for a picnic. Even a visit to your local greenhouse or an indoor botanical garden can surround you with enough of a natural view that you’ll feel yourself relaxing.

During stressful or busy times, remember the benefits of green or blue space and make a point to get it on your schedule.

Julia Quinn-Szcesuil
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