Mental Health & Resiliency: Designing Participatory Nature Dependent Environments and Communities for a Sustainable Future

  •  Jacqueline Beam    
  •  Nawari O. Nawari    
  •  Bill Tilson    


Sustainable design trends have historically wended down a road that supports the idea of densely populated urban planning as a strategy for mitigating sprawl. Creation of dense urban areas aims at the reduction of carbon emissions. However, studies show that densely populated areas often come with a panacea of mental health, resiliency, and quality of life ails for a community.

The following research explores the possibility of combining densely populated design approaches with ancient community planning methods that encourage relationship building: close contact with natural environments and social interchange. Community planning that also creates a day to day contact with nature could be a crucial strategy for both sustaining healthy ecosystems and the development of sustainable communities. The potential for integrating dependence upon nature within built urban environments, as well as the possibility of positive place-making by harvesting nature dependent cultural and social assets in communities and neighborhoods, is, therefore, a wealthy area worthy of exploration.

To explore these areas, mental health research on the effects of nature on the brain, as well as the three leading determinants of social, environmental and economic well-being, worldwide, and the founding cultures of these determinants were reviewed. Resilient indigenous groups and case studies of the happiest nation, of Norway and two leading environmentally sustainable and resilient countries, Costa Rica, Cuba, and New Mexico are examined. The paper provides recommendations for improving mental health and resilience by integrating strategies for nature and community needs in urban planning and built environments design.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.