Make Nature a Part of Your Day, Every Day
“A human being is a part of the whole called by us universe, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feeling as something separated from the rest, a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.” ― Albert Einstein
In a study that followed more than 100,000 women, those who lived near higher levels of Green vegetation had a 12% lower rate of non-accidental premature death compared to those living near areas with the least vegetation.
Those living in Greener areas had a:
- 41% lower death rate for kidney disease
- 34% lower death rate for respiratory disease
- 13% lower death rate for cancer
The researchers suggested 30% of the longevity benefit may be due to nature’s beneficial effect on mental health. Increased Greenery may also affect lifespan by encouraging increased physical activity and social engagement as well as lowering exposure to air pollution.
Cognitive function may also improve.
In a study of 2,600 children between the ages of 7 and 10, those with greater exposure to Green spaces, particularly while at school, had improved working memory and decreased inattentiveness.1
In that case, a large part of the benefit, from 20 to 65% was attributed to a reduction in exposure to air pollution as a result of the Green spaces, there is past research that suggests “microbial input” from spending time in nature plays a role in brain development.
A Y 2014 study similarly found that children attending schools with greater amounts of vegetation scored higher on academic tests in both English and math. And older adults who spend more time outdoors have less pain, sleep better and have less functional decline in their ability to carry out their daily activities.
Those living in a Greener environment report fewer health complaints and better mental health. And all types of Green space; city parks, agricultural areas, forest and others were equally beneficial.
In addition, in the 1st systematic review on the health benefits of Green spaces, it was found that living in Greener environments is associated with better mental health and lower all-cause mortality.
So, find even a few minutes a day to commune with nature, you will likely reap great rewards, including, the following:
- Improved focus: Among children with ADHD, spending time in nature leads to improvements in focus and higher scores on concentration tests.
- Boosts in creativity: One study found walking increased 81% of participants’ creativity, but walking outside produced the most novel and highest quality analogies.
- A better workout: One meta-analysis of 10 studies found that physical activity outdoors for as little as five minutes leads to measurable improvements in mood and self-esteem. Levels of the stress hormone cortisol are also lower when people exercise outdoors as opposed to indoors.
- Less pain and better sleep: Older adults who spend more time outdoors have less pain, sleep better and have less functional decline in their ability to carry out their daily activities.
According to research published in BioPsychoSocial Medicine: The healing power of nature, vis medicatrix naturae, has traditionally been defined as an internal healing response designed to restore health.
Almost a 100 years ago, biologist Sir John Arthur Thomson provided an additional interpretation of the word nature within the context of vis medicatrix, defining it instead as the natural, non-built external environment. He maintained that the healing power of nature is also that associated with mindful contact with the animate and inanimate natural portions of the outdoor environment.
“… With global environmental concerns, rapid urban expansion and mental health disorders at crisis levels, diminished nature contact may not be without consequence to the health of the individual and the planet itself.”
A study published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health (IJERPH) highlighted the need for residents of urban environments to find relief from urban stressors, preferably by having access to outdoor open spaces.
Researchers explained: “There is increasing scientific evidence that particularly open spaces with natural or vegetated elements, e.g., green spaces, provide opportunities for restoration.
Numerous … studies have shown that contact with real or simulated Green settings as opposed to built settings has positive effects on mood, self-esteem and self-reported feelings of stress and depression, and can help to recover from stress and attention fatigue.”
The study focused on the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems, which handle stress either by triggering the “fight-or-flight response” or by enhancing physiological calm, respectively.
Students wore sensors to track their heart rates and other functions and then viewed photos of Green or urban spaces. The photos were shown both before and after the students conducted a serious of difficult math problems designed to raise stress levels.
When photos of Green spaces were seen after the math test, the parasympathetic nervous system was activated and lowered heart rates.
The researchers concluded: “This study indicates that 5 minutes of viewing urban green space can support recovery from stress as shown in enhanced parasympathetic activity. These findings strengthen and deepen the growing evidence-base for health benefits of green space in the living environment. In particular, the present findings point to the importance of visual access to green space in providing readily available micro-restorative opportunities.”
So, if possible, seek to spend time in nature daily.
This could be something as simple as walking down your tree-lined street, tending to your backyard garden or eating lunch outdoors in a city park.
When time allows, try to immerse yourself even more fully in nature by going for a hike in a nature preserve, canoeing down a river or even camping outdoors for a weekend.
Your body may dictate how much nature you need to feel fully recharged, so try to respect what it is telling you. Even a small dose of nature is better than none, and if you cannot get outdoors to the real thing, even viewing nature photos or videos may help you buffer some stress.
If “trapped” in the city find a Green space to soak in nature for its healing effects.
Eat healthy, Be healthy, Live lively