We who live in the North Country can honestly say we “survived” the last winter. Records for snow accumulation and low temperatures were broken. Now that spring is finally beginning to reveal itself, many of us find ourselves going outside to dig into and work with dirt in various ways while taking a natural break. There are so many benefits from connecting with the outside natural world.
Have you ever noticed how refreshed you feel after being outside and working with the earth? How about walking around in a nearby preserve to witness new growth in the surrounding flora? It’s so refreshing. There’s actually evidence that identifies positive results from connecting with nature.
In an article published by the American Society of Landscape Architects written by Jared Green, Green identified research that shows taking a stroll through a natural setting can boost performance on “tasks calling for sustained focus.” “Taking in the sights and sounds of nature appears to be especially beneficial for our minds.” The same article goes on pointing out a fact, Dr. Marc Berman and fellow researchers at the University of Michigan found that “performance on memory and attention tests improved by 20 percent after study subjects paused for a walk through an arboretum. When these people were sent on a break to stroll down a busy street in town, no cognitive boost was detected.”
As a massage therapist, I see many cases of injuries caused from repetitive motion, no matter how insignificant the action may be, including moving a computer mouse or texting on a smart phone, not to mention repetitive heavy labor or work outs. What’s fascinating is repetitive activities in the office place can also create other forms of stress. Jared Green cited Michael Posner, professor emeritus at University of Oregon who studies attention, saying that our brains get fatigued after working for long periods of time, “particularly if we have to concentrate intensely or deal with a repetitive task.” Taking a break may or may not help deal with stress during high-pressure times. What’s crucial is the type of break taken: According to The Wall Street Journal, taking a stroll in the park “could do wonders” while drinking lots of coffee will just be further depleting.
A 2008 article on “Gardening as a therapeutic intervention in mental health” in Nursing Times, originally written as a study by Matthew Page, MSc, unveiled the positive results found from gardening. For example, “quantitative studies have found a significant reduction in symptoms of depression and anxiety following gardening-based interventions. Qualitative studies have provided insight into service users’ experiences of gardening-based interventions, with a range of potential benefits highlighted, including enhanced emotional wellbeing, improved social functioning, improved physical health and opportunities for vocational development.”
How can some of these examples be implemented into our lives? The answers and solutions are quite simple when you think of them.
Have lunch in a natural setting. Take your lunch in a natural setting wether brown bagged or purchased as a take out. There are probably more “green areas” than you realize that are much closer to work than you think.
Create a raised bed garden. Creating a raised bed garden accomplishes so much. You get to connect with the earth! You can raise your own veggies. There’s nothing quite like the faste of food from your own garden. Connect with family members too by making it a family project.
Take the dog for a walk in a park or preserve. Preserves are popping up nearly everywhere these days, so find one nearby and walk Fido there. Make sure to take a small plastic bag with you too by the way. You get exercise outside along with your K-9 companion. You may even find some new places for the future to relax on your own.
Spend time with your yard, roof top garden, or community garden. Opportunities to get outside are limitless when you explore the possibilities. Have you noticed? Gardens are cropping up everywhere – from prison yards to retirement and veteran homes. Even apartment dwellers now have alternatives for getting their hands in the dirt through indoor gardening with decorative plants and even growing vegetables. Raking leaves in your yard takes on a different meaning when it’s viewed as personal time and a way to reduce stress. Regardless of your own circumstances, get outside!
Taking a walk in a natural setting or gardening as examples of connecting with nature can really enhance our lives. It reduces stress, provides exercise, reduces symptoms of depression and anxiety, and enhances our over all well-being. So, take a natural break whenever you can for yourself. Consider it a spring time gift to you!
Natural Path – photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/51866462@N07/8954971567″></a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/”>(license)</a>
Community Vegetable Garden – photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/42647587@N06/3935703108″>Stars Complex Urban Garden</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/”>(license)</a>
Enjoy Nature – photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/32008328@N08/4095380295″>HAWAII NOV-09129</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/”>(license)</a>
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