Sarasota Magazine: The Power of Nature to Boost Mental Wellness

Sarasota Magazine: The Power of Nature to Boost Mental Wellness

The following article was written by Gulf Coast Community Foundation and appeared on Sarasota Magazine’s website on April 26, 2024

Imagine that you’ve had a long, tough day, however, you stick with your plans and meet a friend for a walk outdoors after work. You take a few moments to fully immerse yourself in nature by looking at the beautiful flowers and grass beneath you, focusing on a butterfly kissing the tip of a nearby leaf. Suddenly, you feel connected, grounded, free of stress, uplifted, and relieved. This is the power green spaces play on mental health.

A family sits on a large swing outside talking
Families gather at The Bay Park to soak in the natural outdoors which can boost mental health.

There is substantial research that proves the positive impact of access to green space on our mental wellness, two top priorities of Gulf Coast Community Foundation

(Gulf Coast). Time spent in green spaces and nature can improve our mental well-being with people reporting improved mood, energy, and clarity when spending time outdoors. Green spaces boost serotonin and dopamine levels in the brain, while also reducing feelings of anger, stress, frustration, and anxiety. Being in nature can even improve cognitive function, boost the immune system, and improve sleep quality and duration. Spending time outside, especially with friends and family, can help youth and adults to leave behind the worries that have increased post-pandemic.

Gulf Coast supports investing in public green spaces that connect people and strengthen social infrastructure. The Bay Park is a perfect example of this concept.

Harmony in Green

The Bay Sarasota is a strong partner of Gulf Coast’s, providing access to green space (sprawling acres of it) which provides mental health benefits. Encouraging people to be in nature can reduce levels of stress, anxiety, and depression while increasing mental concentration.  Jennifer Johnston, Gulf Coast’s director of community leadership, shared, “The Surgeon General issued an Advisory regarding the public health crisis of loneliness and lack of connection in America. The Bay Park offers a stunning waterfront location for all ages to enjoy time among the mangroves and other visitors, watching the sunset, and engaging in free activities including kayaking, yoga, and nature walks. I try to go every week and soak up the feelings of peace.”

Two children sit on the ground playing with giant Jenga pieces
There’s fun for all ages at The Bay Park, providing a respite in nature from the hustle and bustle of everyday life.

Gulf Coast has made many important contributions to The Bay since its inception in 2013. This support includes Common Ground, a centerpiece in the first phase of the park, which has become a beloved, sustainable, outdoor gathering space for all to treasure – and a boost for mental wellness. We support The Bay Park so that it may be preserved for future generations to enjoy the blue and green oasis.

Our Board of Directors recently approved a $1 million grant that has been doubled by Gulf Coast donors, to make a total of $2 million in matching dollars available for the continual expansion of The Bay Park. You can double your impact now through December for our “One Park for All” by visiting The Bay’s website. Together, you can be a part of the transformational partnership creating The Bay.

So, if you’re still questioning that walk outdoors, we hope you will consider the plentiful benefits that green spaces, especially The Bay, provide in improving wellbeing.