Jayney's Blog

JG blog nature 10 May

Are you Nature Deprived? How Nature can boost our health and well-being 

We human beings are as much a part of nature as any other animal. We interact consistently and constantly with it on so many levels and in so many ways, from our tiniest molecules to our larger biological, mental, emotional, and spiritual systems. We have an inbuilt sense that this interaction is deeply beneficial to us, especially with the growing prevalence of depression caused by ‘nature deprivation’, a recognised pitfall of modern life that is due, largely, to the increasing amount of time we spend in front of screens. 

Of course, we innately know that being in nature relaxes and refreshes us, and we find nature deeply healing – however, is there more to it? The answer is an emphatic yes. In fact, there is a profound rejuvenating and age-reversing effect of simply being in nature.

Studies have suggested that time spent out of doors could contribute profoundly, simply, and realistically to halting, reversing, and even curing diseases and conditions that we associate with ageing. 

Time in nature and viewing natural scenes is akin to a Zen exercise – it increases our ability to pay attention, because we humans are hardwired to find nature inherently interesting. Experiencing nature provides respite for our overactive minds, and this refreshes us and readies us for new tasks.

Enjoying the flora and fauna also brings us out of ourselves and our narrow concerns, and connects us to the larger world where we find beauty and interest. Thus, the environment is connected not only to our physical, emotional, and spiritual health, but to purpose and community. So take my advice and get some fresh air today! 

Nine ways to beat the nature deficit 

1. Go green 

If you can get out to the countryside that’s great – however if you live in an urban environment, make an effort to find a park or a green space with trees and bushes. Escape during your lunch hour to get a breath of fresh air and give your mind a break, and I guarantee you’ll find that you have much more energy for your afternoon mental tasks.

2. Head for the hills 

It’s been shown to improve both attention in the young and cognitive functioning in the old, and outdoor fitness reduces stress and enhances mood much more than an indoor workout. 

In a study published in Mind, one group of participants walked in an area with woods, grasslands, and lakes, while another group walked in a shopping mall. The outdoor group had less depression and anger, lower tension, and an overall better mood than the indoor group. 

A series of fascinating studies in Japan showed that walking in forests as opposed to urban environments lowered blood pressure and stress hormones well beyond the time of the walk. 

So, go somewhere with trees, bushes, wild grasses or flowers, water, and other such natural elements, and go for a walk, or run, or cycle. Nurturing your own back garden is another wonderful way to be active outside and connect deeply with nature.

“Bring nature indoors to influence your mood, performance and overall well-being every day”

3. Get some plants 

Plants reduce the amount of airborne pollutants, and research done by NASA in the 1970’s and 1980’s demonstrated the air-cleansing powers of plants in the Skylab, biospheres, and homes. Adding a few plants to your décor boosts well-being on so many levels and, in fact, a fascinating study undertaken in nursing homes showed that people who had a plant to look after did better on every measure of health because they had something to care for.

4. Harness flower power

Nature is full of wonderful plant aromas, these not only make our environment pleasant, but they are also full of chemicals that enhance our thinking, mood, immune system and much more. In fact, increasing numbers of scientists are looking at the therapeutic effect of different plant oils on various health conditions. Two examples supported by research are peppermint oil, which enhances attention and lessons mental and physical fatigue, and lavender oil which calms us. Try diffusing a few drops of these oils or other oils at home to enhance your mood.

5. Open the curtains

Letting in natural light increases job satisfaction, enhances performance, reduces depression, and even enhances recovery. One interesting study compared the use of pain medications in patients who were on the bright and dim sides of a hospital. Those on the bright side were less stressed, felt less pain, and took fewer analgesics.

6. Add nature scenes

If you don’t have a beautiful view from your window at home or work, you can still benefit from a landscape painting or photo. Find one that you like. Intriguingly, you might prefer a picture of an open landscape (rather than a forest), as some researchers hypothesise that this is more beneficial to us. Why? Because we feel more comfortable when we can see that there are no predators hiding in the woods!

7. Love your pet 

There is a large body of research that shows the benefits of pet ownership, including lower blood pressure, reduced depression and anxiety, and a built-in exercise programme. Not sure about getting a pet? Begin by simply allowing yourself time to watch the birds and other wild animals in your garden or a nearby park. And, you can benefit further by contributing to the welfare of wild creatures around the world by helping to protect the biological diversity that our ecosystems need to flourish. 

TRY THIS 

Animal meditation 

When you are overwhelmed by a personal problem, spend some time with a pet – if you don’t have a pet why not borrow one, or become a pet sitter. 

Try breathing in rhythm with your animal. For half an hour, do nothing but be present with your animal. If your mind starts wandering and worrying about your difficulties, gently return to your breathing. After 30 minutes, note your mental state.

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