One life: healthier, happier

How Nature Can Heal Your Body And Mind

It is Spring and even if looking outside right now doesn’t indicate that, the nicer weather is around the corner.

After a long winter it is time for those of us who are attached to our screens and interiors to step outside and embrace the natural beauty of the area where we live. 

According to Richard Louv, a journalist in San Diego who coined the term Nature Deficit Disorder, “Nature is not only nice to have, but it’s a have-to-have for physical health and cognitive functioning.”

In a study of 20,000 people, a team led by Mathew White of the European Centre for Environment & Human Health at the University of Exeter, found that people who spent two hours a week in green spaces — local parks or other natural environments, either all at once or spaced over several visits — were substantially more likely to report good health and psychological well-being than those who don’t. Two hours was the requirement, since the study found that there were no benefits for any less time.

I am sure we can find 2 hours to breathe in some fresh air, even just sitting on the porch and people watching. I know I watch more Netflix than that in one night, especially when a new season drops.

In our society today we have become so disconnected from the world around us, nature and people. This results in greater rates of depression and some studies even indicated increased screen time with loss of empathy and lack of altruism. Let us get back to nature not only to survive but to thrive. There are so many benefits to getting outside:

Ways nature helps you mentally:

· improves your mood

· reduces feelings of stress or anger

· helps you take time out, feel more relaxed and calm your mind

· improves your confidence and self-esteem

· helps you feel more connected to nature and the world around you

· helps you meet and get to know new people, reducing loneliness

· connects you to your local community

Ways nature helps you physically:

  • lowers blood pressure, heart rate and stress hormone levels
  • reduces muscle tension
  • reduces nervous system arousal and anxiety
  • enhances immune system function
  • increases vitamin D production
  • ADHD and aggression lessen in natural environments

Overwhelmed and don’t know where to start?

Here are 19 ideas to start you on your journey to a more connected, happier and peaceful you:

1. Take a walk in a green space.

2. Get creative. Draw or paint animals or nature scenes, or let them inspire a poem or song lyrics. If you enjoy writing in a journal, try doing this outside.

3. Eat meals outdoors. Have a picnic in a local park, or sit in a garden if you have one. This might be something you could enjoy doing with other people.

4. Watch the stars. Use a stargazing website, app or book to help you recognize different stars, or simply enjoy looking at the night sky.

5. Exercise outside.

6. Join a local walking or rambling group.

7. Follow a woodland trail.

8. Go beachcombing. Visit the seaside and search the shoreline for interesting things.

9. Try geocaching. Geocaching involves looking for items in hidden outdoor locations, using a mobile phone or tablet. This is so much fun for the whole family. For more information on geocaching see their website 

10. Go on a litter picking walk.

11. Watch out for wildlife. Try and identify different animals.

12. Go for a walk through a forest and try to identify different plants and learn about the native plants around you. Be careful when touching.

13. Take photographs and try to see your surroundings from new perspectives.

14. Go fishing.

15. Hang a bird feeder outside a window.

16. Go barefoot in the grass or sand. This is grounding and really connects your body with nature.

17. Go fruit picking. Look for local farms or orchards that let you pick fruit to buy.

18. Learn to find edible plants, known as food foraging. You could see if a foraging group meets in your local area.

19. Play in the dirt and plant vegetables in your garden. If you don’t have access to a garden, you could plant salad leaves or herbs in a window box or plant pot.

Take mindful reflection of the nature around you. Find things you can see, hear, taste, smell or touch. For example, grass under your feet or the feeling of wind and sunlight.

Enjoy the new season!

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