Jessica Pettway for TIME

What Green Spaces Can Do to Your Mood

It might seem intuitive that spending time outside is good for you. Whether it’s taking a walk to clear your head or smelling flowers in a backyard garden, getting outside is a dependable way to feel better.

The effect is real, and over the years, scientists have shown that nature can provide stress relief, increase social interaction, encourage physical exercise and even help soothe mental illness.

But this effect isn't limited to forests or beaches that may be miles away. Growing research suggests that just about any kind of green space—from hiking trails and coastlines to soccer fields and local parks—can make you happier and boost your mental health, as long as it has a few key qualities.

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When it comes to seeking happiness, the quality of the green space matters more than the quantity. In one study in the journal BMC Public Health, researchers found no significant link between the amount of green space in an individual’s local area and their mental wellbeing. Merely having vegetation doesn't guarantee a positive experience, explains study author Victoria Houlden, a PhD candidate at the University of Warwick in England.

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