My friend sent me an article from National Geographic which I found fascinating. It talks about how we are “wired to be outside”. Here are some points that I thought were the most interesting:
- Did we use to play outside more? “70 percent of today’s mothers in the U.S. recalled playing outdoors every day as children but only 26 percent of them say their kids play outside daily. That’s a huge change. After school, kids used to come home, meet up with their friends, and go run around the neighborhood. I used to do that. Now kids are totally scheduled. If they are outside, it’s with adults in some organized sporting activity. There’s not that free, exploratory play that a lot of experts think children need in order to gain a strong sense of themselves and learn social skills and problem solving”.
- Does being outside in nature cause the same brain states as meditating? “Neuroscientists, especially in the U.K. and U.S., are starting to look at how people’s brains respond to different environments. What they’re seeing is that if their volunteers are walking through a city or noisy area, their brains are doing different things than if they are walking in a park. The frontal lobe, the part of our brain that’s hyper-engaged in modern life, deactivates a little when you are outside. Alpha waves, which indicate a calm but alert state, grow stronger. When psychologists talk about flow there seems to be a lot of alpha engagement there. Buddhist monks, meditators, are also great at engaging alpha waves”.
- “A study in Illinois even showed that proximity to nature can lower the murder rate. It wasn’t necessarily because the trees were causing people to be less violent. It was that living in a place with trees created an environment where neighbors spent more time outside, hanging out in their courtyards, talking to each other. These social connections were facilitated by green space. It’s a very interesting and under-recognized aspect of green space”.
- Frederick Law Olmsted, who designed Central Park in New York, saw the significance of parks for social interactions and health and wellbeing benefits. “What he did that was different and significant was that he recognized that people needed nature in order to get along with one another, in order to be their best selves, that it was a place where people could let off steam, especially the working classes, who normally didn’t have access to green spaces. Beautiful parks were the preserve of the gentry and Olmstead recognized that there was a class injustice with regard to access to beautiful spaces. He had a social mission to create parks that could be used by all people, which is a fundamentally democratic idea. He distributed flyers to doctors’ offices in poor neighborhoods all over New York City telling doctors: Please tell your patients to go to Central Park because it will help them feel better!”
- Do we underutilise our senses when indoors? “Something researchers in Japan recognized about urban life is that when we are indoors we rely mostly on our eyes and ears, but our other senses are underutilized. They think this is partly related to why outdoor environments make our stress levels go down.”
- Ever heard of “the natural pyramid”? “The nature pyramid is the idea that nature is something we have every day. One of the things we’re recognizing is that, like other medicines, nature follows a dose curve. A little bit of nature is helpful; a little more nature is even more helpful. If we think about how to access a little bit of nature in our daily lives, that’s a great start: house plants, going for walks on streets with trees and, as you move further up the pyramid, making an effort maybe once a month to go to a nature preserve or park outside the city”.
- Public health services recognising the importance of spending time in nature for general health and wellbeing. “In Finland, public health officials now recommend that citizens get 5 hours a month, minimum, in the woods, in order to stave off depression. This is evidence-based. They found that people need this time in order to preserve their mental health. A lot of Asian countries have also figured out that nature should be a fundamental part of democracy; that it’s a human right and a necessity.”
- In Singapore, you can’t build a skyscraper without incorporating greenery into it – this concept is called A City In A Garden.
You can read the full article here.
You can learn more about Nature Therapy here;
about history behind Nature Therapy here;
about about science behind Nature Therapy here.
If you would like to experience the benefits of spending time in nature combined with mindfulness, aromatherapy, yogic exercises, grounding, sensory exercises, and other techniques, you are welcome to join us for our Nature Therapy Walks in Surrey – you can find out more about them and the upcoming walks schedule here.