The research is validating what we instinctively know to be true – that spending time outside makes us feel better. Taking a walk, gardening, fishing, bike riding and other activities can elevate our moods and we have a better felling about our quality of life. The surprising fact is that this benefit can occur in as little as five minutes!
Researchers in the United Kingdom analyzed data collected from over 1,200 people of all ages, genders and mental health status and were able to show that activity in nature settings improved mental and physical health. The researchers, Jules Pretty and Jo Barton, Ph.D. indicated that activity in nature decreases the risk of mental illness and improves the sense of well-being. “Just 5 minutes of exercise in a green nature setting can boost mood and self-esteem.”
So, be sure to get outside. Especially this time of year, as we retreat indoors for the winter season. Spending time in the garden doing some end of year chores or possibly getting ready for the spring season are important – for us as well as the garden. Maybe it means taking a walk on a sunny day to get that dose of Vitamin D and limit the effects of seasonal affected disorder. What ever the reason – be sure to maintain your connection with nature by getting outside.
The article can be found in Science Daily – http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/05/100502080414.htm)Read more
Reading a recent article “Taking Tree-Hugging to New Heights” by Benjamin Percy in the Wall Street Journal (10-16-10), I cannot help but think that this childhood sport will only continue to grow. The article describes the tree climbing program in Eugene, Oregon where you can not only climb trees but spend the night. As the article so aptly puts it “tree climbing has become a vacation destination due to some childish nostalgia, eco-awareness and an appreciation of spider-like thrill of swinging from ropes.”
The mind wanders to the Boomers and how they are helping to fuel this and other eco-pursuits. The idea of climbing trees, in this context, is meant more for the adventure of the sport as well as to be able to re-live childhood activities. We can expect to see more of these things “nature pursuits” being incorporated into all kinds of programs as the Boomers move closer to more free time and disposable income. The Morris Arboretum recently opened the “Out on a Limb’ exhibit in which you can spend time elevated in the trees high above the ground – www.morrisarboretum.org
If you want to attract more of the environmentally conscious older adults, consider incorporating, not just tree climbing activities. How about a big tree house that you can actually spend time in and spend the night in? Maybe the grand kids will want to visit and have a sleep over with you in the tree house. We need to explore the ways in which we can create environments that enable people to get closer to and be a part of nature.
Some sites to visit include pacifictreeclimbing.com for information on tree climbing adventures in the US. If you have been yearning to stay overnight in a tree house, visit www.treehotel.se to see where you can sleep up in the trees. To read more from the article in the WSJ, visit http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748703467004575464073401007574.html?mod=WSJ_ArtsEnt_TravelRead more
The question of why we are attracted to water may be a bit obvious for some. However, we all too often take water for granted. It is, for the most part, easily accessible and abundant. We are connected to water in so many ways. In fact, we are as humans on average 75 percent water. The earths surface is 70 percent water. This investigation of why we are attracted to water is, in part, preparation for an upcoming presentation on water and horticultural therapy.
We ARE attracted to water, that is obvious. Whether it is a lake, ocean or a man made water feature, we feel compelled to interact on some level. All of our senses are heightened and respond in different ways. The smell of ozone when it rains or the melodic sounds of waves crashing on the beach are just a few of the reactions water elicits. Who is not interested in a water pistol fight on a hot summer’s day. Watch children (and those still young at heart) who cannot resist playing in a fountain.
A preliminary search of current literature and research findings indicate that there are emotional responses caused when water touches our skin, much like someone holding our hand. When someone holds our hand, the brain releases the hormone Oxytocin, which promotes a feeling of devotion and trust. The Orbital Front Cortex of the brain responds to sweet tastes and pleasant odors. The smell of the air when it begins to rain or the salt spray from the ocean can trigger a positive emotional response.
The next time you pass a water fountain in a park or shopping mall, stop and pay attention. How does it make you feel? What are the reactions experienced by others. Do you or others have a tendency to touch the water. Does the sound of the running water as it splashes onto the hard surface make you slow down and watch? Your blood pressure should be reduced and hopefully a sense of calm may be present, even for a short while. Begin to make a mental note of these reactions.Read more
An article in today’s USA Today by Craig Wilson reminds me how important the porch is for all of us. Craig reminisces on growing up and spending time on his parents front porch. His stories remind me of spending my own childhood on the back porch of my parents home. All our summer meals took place on the porch. In fact, most all activities were moved to the porch during the summer months. There were many summer nights spent sleeping outside on the porch.
The porch is one of those iconic architectural elements that we all can relate to and have fond memories of spending time on. It works so well because it offers us protection from the elements. The porch shelters us from the hot summer sun and it is a place where we can sit outside to listen to the rain. It acts as a stage where we can entertain our friends. And it is an observation area where we can check out what is happening in the neighborhood. The porch makes us feel safe because we are close to the house and do not have to venture too far into nature.
I am reminded of how important an architectural element the porch is for all of us. A porch was included in the garden design at Medford Leas Continuing Care Retirement Community. The porch was constructed off of the recreation room and it has been an essential component of this courtyard garden. It is host is daily activities, including cookouts, holiday parties, concerts, garden classes, reading groups, etc. etc.
I am thinking about a comfortable chair, something to eat and maybe a good book to read on my porch. You can include a ceiling fan, maybe some music and a cooler filled with drinks and you may never have to leave! Who could ask for anything more! Enjoy!Read more
IN THE NEWS
“Spending more time in nature might have some surprising health benefits.” This and other information can be found in the recent New York Times article “The Claim: Exposure to Plants and Parks Can Boost immunity” by Anahad O’Connor (July 5, 2010). Stress reduction, increased immune function, lower concentration of cortisol, lower pulse rate and lower blood pressure are just a few of the many health benefits associated with our interaction with nature.
As the article describes, “Exposure to plants and trees seems to benefit health.” It is good to see that articles like this are reaching main stream America and beyond. We have know for years that contact with nature helps us recover from illness. Now the studies are proving that daily contact will make us healthier – and save healthcare dollars, too! The article can be found at http://www.nytimes.com/2010/07/06/health/06real.html?_r=2&emc=eta1Read more