[Written by Ani Williams]
[Image Credits: Kieren Mehta]
Moving from a village on the coast of rural North Wales (with a population of just under 1,000) to the bustling hub that is Glasgow (Scotland’s largest city with a population of over 600,000) is no small feat for someone who’s never been away from home for longer than a week. The first few weeks of living in Glasgow went perfectly fine: the excitement of freshers’ week and meeting new people and exploring the city all keeping me on the tip of my toes. But as time went on, I realised how major it was that I had left home and was no longer surrounded by the sea, the fields and an uncountable amount of sheep, but instead Glaswegian buildings, a vast array of people from different cultures, and the constant hum of a metropolis were around me.
I didn’t realise how much of an effect being enveloped in nature could have on me until I returned home one weekend in October. The fact that I could go for a walk outside and within less than 10 minutes be at the edge of the ocean on an isolated beach, away from city-related pollution, without seeing or meeting a single soul, was something that I desperately craved upon returning to Glasgow. It was especially the silence that I craved most. Although it’s true that even in nature you won’t find complete silence, the difference between the soft rustling of grass and the peaceful collision between the sea and the sand and the innumerable shrieking ambulances and police cars passing my Cowcaddens bedroom window is obviously apparent.
Despite how prone I am to long for nature due to where I was raised, it’s not without good reason. In their 2014 meta-analysis, psychologists Capaldi, Dopko and Zelenksi state that there are multiple behavioural and personality differences found among individuals who are connected and strongly identify with nature compared to those who do not. For example, individuals with a higher connection to nature tend to be more conscientious, extroverted, agreeable and open, as well as typically having a greater general and psychological hedonic well-being. With psychological evidence to suggest that being in nature can improve one’s well-being, consider even the impact of a few hours enfolded in greenery on a stressed university student.
Another major positive point in favour of spending more time in nature is how it can affect one’s attitudes towards climate change. The Capaldi, Dopko and Zelenksi 2014 meta-analysis also sheds light on the fact that a greater connection to nature is associated with more pro-environmental attitudes, a greater willingness to engage in sustainable behaviour, and an increased concern about the negative impact human behaviour has on the environment. Furthermore, S. F. Mayer and C. M. Frantz, in their book on individuals’ communication with nature published in 2004, mention that people who incorporate more nature into their lives can feel that damage done to the environment is damage done unto themselves, thus furthering their eco-anxiety levels.
Though this could be regarded as an unfortunate element to connecting with nature, if we consider the extent of action that is still necessary to reverse and prevent the current effects of climate change, then perhaps exploring nature is the perfect act to propel the movement further simply by reminding us of what is truly at stake. Personally, when I’m in nature and come across mistreatment of the outdoors, such as litter that has been left to rot or abnormal decay caused by existing climate conditions, I’m catapulted into the cruciality of this impending issue.
Since moving to Glasgow, I’ve visited a couple of locations that not only reduced my stress levels and improved my relationship with the fight for climate justice, but also remedied my quest for peace and silence within the city. The Botanic Gardens, only a 5-minute walk from Hillhead subway station towards Great Western Road, is a great place to start. Perfect if you want to learn more about a broad variety of plants or see Scipione Tadolini’s statue of Eve that seemingly every Glasgow Uni student posts a picture of on their Instagram after a visit.
Secondly, the numerous parks that are spread throughout the city are more than sufficient. Ruchill Park, located right next to Murano Street Student Village in Maryhill, has an excellent viewpoint for the West End, situated in the centre of the park, so if you’re living at Murano I would highly recommend exploring Ruchill. Kelvingrove Park, closer to the university itself, is another beautiful park that makes a delightful break from the constant stress of uni. Lastly, a bit further away from the West End, is Pollok Country Park. Though you need to catch a train from Central Station to Pollokshaws West to get here, visiting the biggest natural park in Glasgow is more than advantageous – the highland cows and the Spanish art collection in Pollok House are well worth the visit.
Being in nature means the world to me. I’ve grown up surrounded by it and I get fidgety when I spend too much time away from it. I’m very lucky to have the ability to be completely immersed in it when I return home to my very small part of Wales, but the options that Glasgow offers are more than sufficient. If you haven’t visited these natural places yet (either the ones I previously mentioned or others that you know of), I would highly recommend you do so. As an act of self-care and an act of environmental care, spending some time alone or with company in these beautifully welcoming spaces could do unexpected good for you, and might also lead to some unanticipated benefits for the planet.