We are social beings. We like to be around other people. It is good for our health and it is known that people who socialize live longer. There are many places in which we interact with out friends and family and one of the best places is in the great outdoors.
The article in the Dec. 28 issue of the Wall Street Journal, “Making 2011 The Year of Great Relationships” by Elizabeth Bernstein indicates that being outdoors relieves stress. We know that access to nature helps us heal sooner, so, why not enjoy that next conversation outside. Combining the healing powers of nature with a walk in the park, a bike ride or even a sleigh ride in the snow will make us feel better overall.
Roger Ulrich, Ph.D. has defined nature as a ‘positive distraction’. Nature has the ability to help us focus and can improve our concentration. We can help reduce the distractions by turning off the cell phone, i-pod and other electronic devices. The sounds of nature will produce the soundtrack for the social break. Spending more time outdoors with others in 2011 will be one the best things we can do to begin the new year.
A link to the article can be found at: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052970203731004576045721718177728.html?KEYWORDS=making+2011+the+year+of+great+relationshipsRead more
Winter began, yesterday, December 21st. This seasonal benchmark means less time during the day light hours to accomplish our tasks. The day may seem to fly by when we focus on work, holiday preparations and our everyday activities. However, we may pass up our interaction with nature.
The shorter days translate into less daylight and earlier sunsets. This can cause us to be more interiorly focused. (A good book, a hot cup of tea and an easy chair can be very tempting.) However, we need to continue to get outside to help balance our circadian rhythms and produce melatonin. This will help offset feelings of tiredness, inactivity and malaise.
A recent study validates our need to walk for health and well-being. Jody Rosenblatt Naderi and Barani Raman have measured perceptions of people who walk for health purposes and determined the variables of the environment (weather, sound, water, light and other factors) that affect the decisions where to walk. The study “Capturing impressions of pedestrian landscapes used for healing purposes with decision tree learning” begins to look at how walking conditions and health are directly related.
So, be sure to take walks, even if they are shorter than normal during the winter season. Find a friend to walk with you to keep you company and help encourage you on. And, know that the research is helping to validate what we know to be true. Our mother was right. Playing (and walking) outside is good for us.
Great Outdoors Initiative
An initiative is being advanced to make June the ‘Great Outdoors Month’ in order to highlight the need to get people to spend more time outside. It should come as no surprise that people are less connected to the natural environment. The article “Head Out for a Daily Dose of Green Space” by Jane Brody in the NY Times (12-7-10) focuses on our need to reconnect with the nature. So, this June will be the Great Outdoors Initiative. We should work to make this happen everyday. Do not wait until June – take the challenge today! http://www.nytimes.com/2010/11/30/health/30brody.html
Along the lines of connecting to the natural environment, research validates that people prefer ‘natural’ environments over complex or artificial environments. Further research is needed to understand what elements of the natural environment help to relieve stress and are more calming for people. The term Topophilia that has been used to describe this connection with the environment. Yi-Fu Tuan, a geographer at the University of Wisconsin, used the term to show how we mentally, emotionally and cognitively bond with a place or environment. (Environmental Health Perspectives, Vol. 3, No. 2, 2-05)
When installing a new plant, the planting hole should be twice as wide as the root ball. The hole should not be deeper than the bottom of the root ball. The reason is that most plants have a lateral root which creates stability of the plant. This growth pattern also allows the plant to find water and nutrients. You do not need to back fill the hole with compost or potting mixture. Good soil will be all the plant needs.
Gardening in 2011
Looking ahead to the garden next season, we would like to offer a few suggestions to improve your gardening results:
- Add compost to improve the soil, either make your own or purchase mushroom compost from the garden center
- Rotate vegetable plants every season to make sure that nutrients are not depleted from the soil
- Include flowering plants to attract a diversity of insects in the garden at all times
- Limit walking in the garden to avoid compacting the soil which reduces the ability of soil to drain properly
- Plant vegetables close so that they shade the soil and help prevent excess moisture evaporation and weed growth
- Mulch around the plants to reduce erosion, maintain moisture in the soil and limit weeds.
Winter Interest and Color
As we gaze upon the winter landscape, this is a good time to take stock of the plants that offer visual interest. Plants such as Yellow Twig Dogwood (Cornus stolonifera lutea) stand out with their bright yellow bark. The colored exfoliating bark of the Paperbark Maple (Acer griseum) presents an iridescent orange color. The twisted branches of the Cork Screw Hazlenut (Corylus avellana contorta) is a delight to look at. And the movement of many of the taller ornamental grasses, such as Fountain Grass (Pennisetum) and Switch Grass (Panicum) will bend in the wind and are iridescent when covered with ice.
Winter begins on Tuesday the 21st of December, which is also the shortest day of the year. The winter solstice occurs when the tilt of the earth’s axis is farthest away from the sun. This occurs in a very short instant of time; however, we associate the event with midwinter and the first day of winter. We know that the weather has turned cold our winter season really began weeks before. We associate these shorter days and longer nights with more indoor activities, especially as the holidays approach. Yet we know that we need to get outside to help balance our circadian rhythms and production of melatonin in the body. This will help offset those feelings of tiredness, inactivity and malaise. Be sure to take walks, even if they are shorter than normal. Find a friend to walk with you. And there are always chores to do around the garden – bird feeders to fill, branches to be pruned, plants mulched, perennials cut back, etc. There may even be a few warm(er) days when you can sit outside and enjoy nature.
Horticultural Therapy in the News
Great article in the Philadelphia Inquirer by Virginia Smith (11-26-10) on horticultural therapy and the HT program at Cathedral Village – http://www.philly.com/inquirer/columnists/virginia_smith/20101126_In_the_gardening_moment.html
Vitamin D and the Flu
Vitamin D is being studied to see if it may be helpful in preventing the flu, as described in an article in the WSJ by Laura Johannes. Scientists are looking at how we spend more time indoors in the winter which means that there is lower absorption of Vitamin D from the sun. The flu shot is still recommended in conjunction with an increase in Vitamin D. This is another one of the many reasons for spending more time outside. (Wall Street Journal, 12-7-10) http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704156304576003531437073192.html?KEYWORDS=can+vitamin+D+replace+flu+shots
Just for Fun – Garden Trends?
The national Trust in Great Britain has been working to encourage more people to get outside. So, to help all of the ‘couch potatoes’ find a similar place to “roost” in the outdoors, they have installed grass couches in many of the historic sites throughout the U.K. To look at pictures of some of the 30 foot long grass couches – visit: http://webecoist.com/2010/07/30/literal-lawn-chairs-grass-sofas-brighten-up-british-summer/Read more