In our hasty modern lives, the state of our environment plays a crucial role in shaping our mental well-being. The impact of living in a cleaner city goes far beyond aesthetic appeal and environmental sustainability. Numerous studies have shown a strong correlation between urban cleanliness and improved mental health among residents.
Living in a polluted city can have profound implications for mental health. From increased stress and anxiety to cognitive impairment and sleep disturbances, the effects of pollution on
mental well-being are far-reaching. Recognizing the connection between environmental factors and mental health is crucial for policymakers and communities to work together to implement sustainable solutions that promote cleaner and healthier urban environments for the benefit of the residents' mental and physical health. This is especially important in today’s society with the recent push for mental health advocacy.
It is no secret that our surroundings significantly influence our state of mind. A cleaner city, free from litter, pollution, and clutter, creates a positive atmosphere that can lead to several mental health benefits such as:
Reduced Stress Levels: A clean city promotes a sense of calm and relaxation. The absence of litter, pollution, and visual clutter in a well-maintained cityscape can provide relief from the hustle and bustle of urban life. In a report by the World Health Organization (WHO), experts highlighted that access to clean and well-maintained public spaces, such as parks and gardens, contributes to stress reduction and promotes a positive mental outlook.
Furthermore, the positive effect of a cleaner city on anxiety levels can be attributed to the psychological phenomenon known as "restorative environments." A study published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health (2022) revealed that exposure to natural and clean urban spaces helps alleviate anxiety and stress. A cleaner city provides a visually appealing and calming backdrop that allows individuals to unwind and rejuvenate, ultimately leading to improved mental well-being and reduced stress levels.
Enhanced Cognitive Function: Clean environments tend to foster better cognitive function, improving focus, memory, and decision-making abilities. This, in turn, can contribute to increased productivity and overall well-being.
Research suggests that reduced environmental pollution and clutter positively influence brain health. Studies conducted by Marc Berman at the University of Chicago found that exposure to nature and cleaner urban environments enhanced attention restoration and cognitive performance. He reported that participants who spent time in natural settings or green spaces exhibited better attention and memory restoration compared to those exposed to urban environments with higher levels of pollution and congestion. Another study published by the Public Library of Science investigated the cognitive development of children living in urban areas with varying levels of air pollution. The results showed that exposure to cleaner air was associated with improved cognitive function and development in children. These findings prove the importance of prioritizing cleanliness and sustainability as it can lead to a smarter, healthier, and more productive urban population.
Elevated Mood and Happiness: Beautifully maintained public spaces, parks, and green areas in a city can evoke feelings of happiness and joy, positively impacting residents' overall mood. A study conducted in Iran found a strong correlation between environmental cleanliness and increased levels of depression. Another significant research study published by the American Medical Association examined the relationship between urban green spaces and depression. The study found that increased access to green spaces in cities was linked to a lower risk of depression among residents. Green spaces not only contribute to the overall cleanliness of a city but also provide natural areas for relaxation and stress reduction. This evidence underscores the importance of maintaining clean and green urban environments as a means to reduce depression and enhance mental well-being among city dwellers.
Social Interaction and Community Bonding: Well-maintained public spaces and cleaner neighborhoods cause residents to spend more time outdoors, engaging in recreational activities, which promotes community bonding and a stronger sense of community pride. This, in turn, also fosters a shared sense of responsibility for the upkeep of these spaces. The presence of clean and inviting spaces encourages individuals to connect with their neighbors, promoting a stronger sense of community and cooperation as well as making residents feel like they belong.
What You Can Do
Maintaining a clean city is a collective responsibility that falls on both local authorities and individual citizens. As a citizen, you can actively participate in the effort to improve your city's cleanliness and, as a result, enhance your mental health. Here are some easy ways you can get involved:
Proper Waste Disposal: Dispose of waste responsibly by using designated recycling bins and trash receptacles. Avoid littering and be mindful of where you throw away your garbage.
Participate in Community Clean-Up Events: Join local clean-up initiatives, community-led efforts, or non-profit organizations (like World Cleanup Day) working towards keeping your city clean. Volunteering for such events not only benefits the environment but also fosters a sense of community and pride.
Promote Recycling: Encourage recycling practices within your household and workplace. Educate yourself and others about the importance of recycling and its positive impact on the environment.
Use Eco-Friendly Transportation: Opt for eco-friendly transportation methods like walking, cycling, or using public transit. This reduces air pollution and contributes to a cleaner city environment.
Support Green Spaces: Advocate for the creation and preservation of parks, gardens, and green spaces in your city. These areas not only enhance the city's aesthetics but also provide natural stress-relief and recreational opportunities.
Adopt a Sustainable Lifestyle: Embrace sustainable habits in your daily life, such as reducing single-use plastics, conserving water, and being mindful of energy consumption.
As responsible citizens, we have the power to make a positive difference in our cities. By actively participating in efforts to maintain cleanliness, we not only support our mental health but also foster a sense of civic responsibility and pride in our community.