Come to the woods, for here is rest.

tree-cold-winter

To Fight the Winter Blues, Try a Dose of Nature by Florence Williams (excerpts):

Wintertime is rough on those whom the 19th-century hiker-philosopher John Muir called “tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people.” But we have an obvious cure for our doldrums: go outside. Though we are months away from the flowers and leafy foliage of spring, a dose of nature can still calm the mind and solidify human bonds. The real question is why we don’t partake more often of this easy balm…

After crunching the data, Dr. MacKerron and Susana Mourato…found people were significantly happier outdoors, especially in natural settings, than they were indoors…But there was a catch: Most of the participants didn’t behave as if they knew this, because they were rarely outside. They were indoors or in vehicles for 93% of their waking hours.

The study reveals our epidemic dislocation from the outdoors—an indictment not just of the structures and expectations of modern life but of our self-understanding. As the writer Annie Dillard famously said, how we spend our days is how we spend our lives. Why don’t we do more of what makes us happy? Part of the answer is that we’re flat-out busy. But even when we have free time, we’re not always smart about how we spend it…

Because we don’t spend enough time outside to notice that it makes us feel good, we spend even less time outside, replacing it with shopping, social media and so on. We especially “devalue nearby nature,” she says, such as small urban parks and tree-lined streets, because we tend to think they aren’t impressive enough as destinations. Scientists are quantifying the effects of even small doses of urban nature not only on our moods and well-being but also on our ability to think—to remember things, plan, create, daydream and focus…

Researchers found that after gazing up at tall trees for just one minute, participants in Berkeley, Calif., behaved more helpfully to others than people who looked at an unremarkable building. The reason? Momentary awe, suggests the University of California, Irvine, psychologist Paul Piff, who co-authored the study. “I think we can say pretty certainly that having a little bit of awe every day in your life would make you happier, kinder and more compassionate,” he says…

The necessary dose varies from person to person, of course, but many experts agree that there seems to be a dose curve for the benefits of nature. In general, the more time you spend in nature, the better you will do on measures of vitality, wellness and restoration. But even micro-shots of nature—a short walk or a look out a window—can boost attention and mood…

So if nature acts as a sort of combined antidepressant and smart pill, how do we know the right dose? Is there a daily minimum requirement?

Every little bit helps, on every corner, according to Rachel Kaplan, an emeritus psychologist at the University of Michigan. As she puts it, “Nature doesn’t have to be pervasive. One tree is an awful lot better than no tree.”

Though Dr. Beatley emphasizes the importance in our nature diet of everyday outdoor experiences, he urges people not to forsake the middle and the top of the nature pyramid. Regional and national parks, wild coasts and wilderness areas are the places where we can best reflect and recover from the stress of work and the news. As John Muir once said, “Come to the woods, for here is rest.”


Notes:

Comments

  1. No doubt..I definitely need to go outside 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Reblogged this on O LADO ESCURO DA LUA.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. yes, this is all so important and so true. especially on such an emotionally challenging day as an american –

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Reblogged this on Bright, shiny objects! and commented:
    The Japanese call it ‘Shinrin-Yoku Forest Therapy’…

    Liked by 1 person

  5. freddiegeorgia says:

    For me (someone who lives in the country with beautiful hiking trails right outside her door), this is a no-brainer! I can testify though, if I have not been out on the trails in days, I will get. irritable, antsy, grouchy. As a friend recently said, you can’t stay mad for long when you’re hiking. True dat.

    Like

  6. Lovely post David. Although my hiking days are over there is truth in your words. However I do have my desk facing a nice size window on the top floor (walk up, no elevator), OK I confess it’s a two story condo but my view is great. Two beautiful palm trees just outside my window and three big Oak trees just across from them. It does feel good when I sit and stare at them for inspiration. Then there is the beach when I get too antsy after all this is Florida. :o)

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I always get a bit of the winter blues and now I will make more of an effort to get out in nature! ❤
    Diana xo

    Liked by 1 person

  8. The more I can be outside in nature, the better I feel.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Thank you for kicking my butt David!!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. This is so timely, pal, and so, so true. Nature. Is. Restorative.

    I just returned from a nice walk with Lola Bug and was thinking as I was drawing in deep lungfuls of fresh air, ‘This is the best!’ The fresh air, the sounds of dry leaves rustling, the screech of two birch trees rubbing together in the wind, the cry of a hawk as it circles looking for a meal, Lola snuffling along in the branches, ‘reading the news.’ I could feel the tension of the day’s news seeping out of my muscles and my shoulders dropping back to their normal height. Must make time to commune with Mother Nature regularly. Full. Stop.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. True for me and Husband. Today was a beautiful day to be outside.
    “Forest therapy”……. Love it!

    Liked by 1 person

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