It’s in Our Nature

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“In forty years of medical practice, I have found only two types of non-pharmaceutical ‘therapy’ to be vitally important for patients with chronic neurological diseases: music and gardens.”
~ Oliver Sacks, Neurologist

“Nature is not only nice to have, but it’s a have-to-have for physical health and cognitive functioning.”                     ~ Richard Louv

Houseplants in our homes and offices, walks in the outdoors, listening to the birds sing and feeding the pigeons and squirrels — each of these activities provides some solace, some relief from the stresses of everyday life. In our hearts, we know this to be true, but more and more scientific research is proving it.

Harry Stead writes, “Whenever you walk into the woods it always feels as if you have entered a sanctuary; everything that you think matters does not seem to matter all that much when you are under the shelter of the trees.”

“How long does it take to get a dose of nature high enough to make people say they feel healthy and have a strong sense of well-being?” Jim Robbins asks, and studies confirm, “Precisely 120 minutes … The effects were robust, cutting across different occupations, ethnic groups, people from rich and poor areas, and people with chronic illnesses and disabilities.”

It gets harder for us these days to find places to escape the modern world for two hours. Robbins notes, “… researchers and policymakers now talk about “park deserts” in urban areas. Cities are adding or enhancing parks, and schools and other institutions are being designed with large windows and access to trees and green space — or blue space, as in aquatic environments. Businesses are increasingly aware of the desire among employees for access to green spaces.”

An annual beach vacation does wonders for my wife and I, and even the anticipation of going can rejuvenate our energies and attitudes. Friends get the same results from vacations in Yellowstone, Moab or even just a long camping weekend in the mountains. Another friend tamps down life’s troubles by spending the morning watching the birds at his backyard birdfeeder. Gardening has the same effect on many, letting them ‘get their hands dirty.’ Fishing answers the need for another friend.

But exposure to nature has more benefit than just improving our health. Writer Katherine Martinko quotes researcher Ian Alcock, “Our results suggest urban greening could help reduce the damaging behaviours which cause environmental problems in the first place by reconnecting people to the natural word.” She adds, “The more exposure to nature you have in your daily life, the more likely you are to behave in environmentally-friendly ways, such as recycling, riding a bike, buying eco-friendly products, and volunteering for environmental projects.”

A healthy nature is a part of a healthy human community. Stead notes, “There seems to be, as far as I can tell, a primal drive towards life which is in every man, and which finds its easiest expression in the act of walking; in the act of moving forward through the world and marveling at the beauty of the natural world … I always choose the woodlands; because in the woods I walk amongst my ancestors, and I am home … The wild woodlands are a fascinating reminder of what nature was like before humanity: a tangled, prickly, and venomous darkness, often hostile and sinister, but, at the same time, mysteriously beautiful. The wildest things are the most alive, and finding yourself amid the wilderness in an age when man has subdued every other part of life is refreshing.”

Feeling depressed? Angry at life? Tired of all the BS in your world? Maybe you need to take the cure — get out there in the natural world and get some perspective and peace.

Try to stay at least two hours, though. It’s in your nature.

Additional information:
Katherine Martinko, Time Spent in Nature is Linked to ‘Green’ Behaviors, January 17, 2020, TreeHugger
Jim Robbins, Ecopsychology: How Immersion in Nature Benefits Your Health, January 9, 2020, YaleEnvironment360
Harry J. Stead, Walking Is Medicine: Why Long Walks Will Change Your Life, Jan 8 ·2020, Medium

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