Erika Bocknek, associate professor of Educational Psychology, quoted in Concentrate, “Mental health is a driving factor in a year of surging attendance at Southeast Michigan parks”
Mental health is a driving factor in a year of surging attendance at Southeast Michigan parks
By Patrick Dunn
While physical activity has long been established as having a positive effect on people with depression, studies have found that effect increases significantly in an outdoor rather than indoor setting. Erika Bocknek is an associate professor of educational psychology at Wayne State University who specializes in child mental health and buffering the impact of stress and trauma on children. Bocknek says one commonly discussed component of mental health is the ability to regulate negative emotions, but it's important to "up-regulate" positive emotions like joy as well. "It's become very clear to me that our outdoor spaces play an extremely vital role in how healthy relationships have a place to do their best work for children and their positive mental health outcomes," she says. "And I think that became especially clear to me during the pandemic, when being outdoors was essentially the only and best option for ensuring that human contact and relationships were thriving." Bocknek says many of the conversations she's had with fellow task members have revolved around the importance of joy during the pandemic's challenges and "how to make our outdoor spaces the stage, so to speak, for joy to do its best work."