Nature: The Beautiful Cure
“Into the forest I go, to lose my mind and find my soul” – Unknown
This quote taken less literally supports what some modern-day psychologist, neurologist and other health-care professionals are finding – NATURE is medicine.
Year after year, statistics reveal an incline of chronic conditions such as Asthma, Diabetes, COPD, Arthritis, Cancer, HIV/AIDS, etc. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) reveals that in 2012, almost 117 million adults had at least one chronic disease. According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Disease (NIDDK), data from the 2009-2010 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey shows that more than two-thirds of the American Adult population was determined to be overweight or obese.
Daphne Miller, MD, author, Clinical Professor at the University of California, San Francisco and National Parks Services Advocate, takes the stance that research is proving that the solution to various health related issues could be right in front of us, and she writes in A Prescription for Nature:
Hundreds of studies have documented the effect of green space on health outcomes: In Copenhagen, living a short distance from a garden or park has been linked to less stress and a lower body mass index. In the United States, children diagnosed with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) were more able to focus in a natural setting than in either a built outdoor environment or an indoor one. Another study from the United States revealed that children in low-income households lowered their risk for asthma by living near areas with higher tree density. In Japan, greener neighborhoods and more parks were associated with greater longevity among the elderly. One study, published in the medical journal Lancet, even suggests that nature exposure can help reduce health disparities, improving health outcomes in poorer communities so that they more closely match those from wealthier neighborhoods.
Miller is merely among many practitioners who have identified the benefits of having a relationship with the great outdoors. In the National Geographic Florence Williams writes in her article, “The Nature Cure,” that Cognitive Psychologist, David Strayer hypothesizes that, “being in nature allows the prefrontal cortex, the brain’s command center, to rest and recover like an overused muscle.” Williams further highlights that whether one has time to head out into the woods or simply to a local park or greenspace, this “miracle medicine” is undoubtedly backed by science to have a positive impact on one’s mental health and creativity.
So what (else) do we know about Nature’s Medicine?
Restore mental health.
Mental health-related problems like anxiety and depression can decrease with a 30 minute walk or jog outside. Nature combined with a bit of exercise can increase your happiness hormone and combat any mental health-related issues.
Are creative thinking and problem solving a part of your job? Stuck in a rut? Can’t figure out your solution? Well, getting outside for a bit of time to breath in some fresh air and clear your head may be the answer to all your work woes.
With sensory-overload and the demands of life and work, perhaps taking time to search for the calm within the storm is necessary. Take a weekend hike or meditate in the park to de-synthesize your overworked senses and relax a little!
A simple step away from day-to-day demands and a step into the world’s lush natural surrounding can rebirth your attention to detail and focus. Meditation in the great outdoors is a great way to become mindful of your world and your place in it.
Research is showing more and more the health benefits of getting outside, including those listed by the American Society of Landscape Architects. So the next time you get a chance to get a dose of nature, explore and discover its benefits on your own.
– Casey Edmonds, CHC