Magazine

Grateful for this Place: A Roundup of Inspiring Reads on Appreciating Central Park and Urban Greenspaces

November is National Gratitude Month, an opportune time to pause and look back on the ways Central Park was there for us throughout this extraordinary year. In the face of historic snow and rainstorms and a lingering global pandemic, the Park has given us so much to be thankful for, including a growing community of Park visitors and the staff that cared for its 843 acres throughout it all.

The Park has been our constant during this tumultuous time, offering a sense of peace that often feels scarce in the City. Maybe it’s the long walks that clear our heads, or the small blooms that add a pop of color—and hope—to our day. Like many New Yorkers, we could go on and on extolling the Park’s virtues. And so with Thanksgiving around the corner, we’re giving thanks to the essential mental health benefits that Central Park and other greenspaces provide. Read on for a roundup of some of our favorite pieces that captured how deeply we’ve needed the Park.

FROM OUR ONLINE MAGAZINE

A Shared Space: Finding Connection Through Conservation
We can appreciate Central Park as the special place it is, but our enjoyment might be even richer if we truly understand how the Park is connected to the region and the globe, thanks to the far-flung travels of these species. This greenspace in the middle of Manhattan is not an isolated “diorama of nature,” Nijhuis notes. The Park itself is pulsating with life, and it is connected to larger, wilder spaces around it—habitats that are being devastated by climate change and whose migratory species need a protected space for survival.

The Delights of Deep Winter: A Conversation Between Authors Florence Williams and Bernd Brunner
As deep winter sets in across the northern hemisphere, it’s worth recalling the kid version of winter in which the snow-covered trees look magical and fresh, the landscape playful, and the air different. Even when we are not traveling far, the change of seasons means a literal change of scene.

Lake Bow Bridge in Central Park

The positive effects of time spent walking in nature—reduced stress hormones, a calmed nervous system—stay with us.

A Walk in the Park: A Neuroscientist Explains the Benefits of Walking in Nature
In busy cities we tend to quicken our pace, but within Central Park even a New York minute seems to slow. And when we cross the Park’s perimeter and merge back into the thrum of the City, the positive effects of time spent walking in nature—reduced stress hormones, a calmed nervous system—stay with us.

Power of the Park: Reflecting on a Year of the Pandemic and Central Park
In a world that often felt turned upside down, stepping into Central Park provided a sense of equilibrium. It righted and restored us—its expansiveness freeing and its consistency a comfort. Even when things seemed the darkest in New York City, the Park was a saving grace for thousands of people who formed new depths of gratitude for its wide-open landscapes. And despite it being a time marked by separation, the Park allowed for a community to form.

In Conversation with Author Florence Williams on the Benefits of Nature
While our visitors lovingly refer to the Park as their respite, sanctuary, and oasis, there’s actually a science to what makes greenspace feel so good. The experience of Central Park—from the sounds of rustling leaves and chirping birds and the details of rippling water and swaying plants to the scenes of large open meadows and woodland glades—has a profound effect on our mental health, and even more so, our sense of belonging.

A duck floating on a lake in Central Park

The experience of Central Park has a profound effect on our mental health.

How Public Health Influenced the Creation, Purpose, and Design of Central Park
Guidebooks and newspaper articles extolled the Park’s “pure” air as a health benefit but also a pleasure—more than just the “lungs of the City”—demonstrating an early understanding of the link between mental and physical health... This restorative power of the Park was a holistic and even intoxicating experience of fresh air, landscape, people, architecture, and recreation.

A Place Where Hope Blooms: The Healing Nature of the Conservatory Garden
To Diane, the dependability of this seasonal change helps to contextualize moments of grief and isolation. “Isn’t it interesting how the word ‘ground’ both means the soil, the earth—and also that place in us? This place is about getting rooted, getting grounded,” she explains. “People need to see that life is going to continue, that plants bloom for one more year.”

FROM OTHER PARK-LOVING PUBLICATIONS

An Anxious Age Demands More ‘Restorative Cities’
Bloomberg
“It makes us feel well to be in green space,” says the psychiatrist and public health specialist [Layla McCay]. “It has an impact on mental well-being and goes beyond simply being outside.”

How a Focus on Nature is Changing Therapy for Kids
Washington Post
“As we engage with the rest of nature, we also begin to get the message that we need to pay attention to the health of Mother Nature as well as our own,” Buzzell says. This helps us actively care for nature...perhaps by tending to a garden with an eye toward sustainability.

Various people exploring the park surrounded by fall colored leaves

“It makes us feel well to be in green space.”

How to Build a Life: Go For a Walk
The Atlantic
Walking is one of the best exercises we can engage in for health and happiness... The walk begins to slow the mind to the speed of the body at a pace that is natural and unforced. The walk becomes a long piece of music—andante, of course—that neither lags nor hurries.

Eagles, Beavers, Sea Turtles: Why N.Y.C. Is Humming With Wildlife
New York Times
New York is now ‘the greenest big city on earth,’ one naturalist said. Some creatures have noticed, and are staying for a while.


Let us know how the Park has been there for you, and in turn, how you help care for it by tagging @CentralParkNYC on social with #TheParkNeedsUs.