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Research shows looking at green trees & foliage can reduce smokers’ cravings

Reconnecting with Mother Nature can produce many therapeutic health benefits that seemingly boost boost the body, mind, and spirit.  New research suggests that the ability to gaze upon green plants like trees, shrubs, and foliage on a consistent basis can help reduce one’s cravings to smoke, drink alcohol, or engage in other bad habits.

Conducted by a group of scientists from the University of Plymouth (U of P) in the United Kingdom, the study builds upon prior research that shows a direct link between outdoor exercise and a similar reduction in negative behaviors. The latest data now suggests that simply gazing upon green spaces outside one’s window may have the same effects without the need for the physical activity whatsoever.

‘Going green’ takes on a whole, new meaning for smokers trying to quit

The study entitled Natural environments and craving: The mediating role of negative affect was published last week in the online journal Science Direct.  For centuries, many cultures have believed that increased exposure to outdoor environments can substantially affect mood, feelings, and emotional outlook.   The U of P research is considered the first project of its kind to investigate the relationship between green spaces and appetite cravings for a variety of substances, including harmful foods and sweets. Lead author Leanne Martin issued the following statement via the University of Plymouth website.

“It has been known for some time that being outdoors in nature is linked to a person’s well-being. But for there to be a similar association with cravings from simply being able to see green spaces adds a new dimension to previous research. This is the first study to explore this idea, and it could have a range of implications for both public health and environmental protection programmes in the future.”

To arrive at their scientific conclusions, the university researchers considered the proportional area of greenery, including trees, shrubs, lawns, and other plants, that is viewable from inside the smokers’ living spaces.  For smokers residing in more urban areas where views of such greenery may be somewhat lacking, the smokers’ access and frequency of use of public parks, gardens, and other green spaces was also taken into consideration.

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The study’s findings indicate that those people who interact with nature more directly and on a regular basis, such as by visiting public gardens, can significantly reduce their related cravings in both frequency and strength.  Furthermore, smokers with access to at least a 25 percent area of viewable green space from within their homes or offices experience similar cravings reductions. Associate Professor of Psychology Dr. Sabine Pahl also added the following comments.

“Craving contributes to a variety of health-damaging behaviours such as smoking, excessive drinking and unhealthy eating. In turn, these can contribute to some of the greatest global health challenges of our time, including cancer, obesity and diabetes. Showing that lower craving is linked to more exposure to green spaces is a promising first step. Future research should investigate if and how green spaces can be used to help people withstand problematic cravings, enabling them to better manage cessation attempts in the future.”

For smokers trying to quit by switching to vaping, the first few days or weeks of the transition can sometimes be challenging.  The troublesome cravings for a conventional combustible tobacco cigarette can still be quite strong on occasion even for the most avid, diehard vaper.  Rather than reaching for a Marlboro and risking permanent smoking relapses, newbie and veteran vapers alike who are experiencing smokers’ cravings might want to consider simply gazing out the window onto a lush, green landscape or taking a short walk through the neighborhood instead. 

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(Image courtesy of Shutterstock)

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