By Miranda Massie on June 7, 2017
The sun is out, there is the smell of freshly cut grass around us and it is finally starting to feel like summer. We seem to have skipped right over spring this year, with the cherry blossoms late to the party and a cold chill in the air lasting longer than usual.
Over the past few weeks, I have been amazed at the remarkable influence of weather patterns and the natural elements on human emotions. People seem physically lighter, and they are quicker to smile and laugh. There is a palpable increase in human energy and there is a celebratory feeling in the air. Not only does the city come alive once again, but so do the people within it.
The biggest bonus of this recent shift in weather? The health benefits that come along with it.
Six ways to use nature to boost your health
1. Take a brain break: Being surrounded by nature provides a much-needed break for the brain. The natural environment reduces overstimulation and allows your mind to rest, recover and re-focus.
Try stepping outside, taking five long deep breaths and then returning to work.
2. Get dirty: Exposure to soil bacteria can act as a natural antidepressant, activating brain cells that improve mood, reduce anxiety and facilitate learning.
Try planting a patio herb garden.
3. Move more, sit less: Better weather leads to more time spent outdoors, which leads to increased activity. By moving more, we boost heart, joint and bone health.
Try taking a 30-minute walk outside this week.
4. Learn who’s who in the zoo: The presence of animals in nature not only enhances social connections between people, but can have a therapeutic effect on mental health.
Try to find five different insects or animals the next time you are outside.
5. Use nature as a gym: Studies show that people who exercise outside have a lower risk of poor mental health.
Try taking your regular workout to a nearby park.
6. Ask an expert: Evidence shows that learning about our natural environment makes us more empathetic towards both humans and animals.
Visit the Beaty Biodiversity Museum.
*A special note given the mention of empathy*:
I want to take a quick moment to acknowledge our many colleagues who are celebrating Ramadan this month. The long sunny days that many of us find so appealing can prove challenging, particularly for those fasting during this religious holiday. This month, I encourage you to offer words of support and encouragement. Read more about Ramadan and one author’s suggestions for how best to support friends and colleagues.
Have fun outside!
All my best,
This is Your Brain on Nature: National Geographic
Go Play Outside: Healthy UBC Newsletter, August 2015
Nurture Your Relationship with Nature: Healthy UBC Newsletter, June 2016
Vitamin Nature: Healthy UBC Newsletter, July 2015
Cheng, J. C. -H. Environment and Behavior: Connection to Nature: Children’s Affective Attitude Toward Nature. 44 Vol. Sage Publications, 01/2012. Web. 26 May 2017.
By Miranda Massie on June 8, 2016
This May marked the 5th annual David Suzuki Foundation 30×30 challenge, which encourages Canadians to spend at least 30 minutes in nature every day for 30 days. Sounds easy, right? It turns out it wasn’t as easy as I thought it would be.
I regularly find myself outside (walking to the bus, heading to meetings, etc.) but rarely do I attempt to purposefully spend time in nature. I realize now that walking down a busy street is not the same as sitting under a tree in a park. Research shows us that exposure to nature is good for our wellbeing. It boosts our immune system, lowers blood pressure, increases creativity, builds empathy and fosters community.
Despite being aware of all of these benefits, consciously finding time in my day to get outside was tough. Truthfully, I ran out of ideas after going for a couple of walks and having my lunch on a bench on Main Mall.
That is where the 30×30 challenge daily tips came in handy! It provided a list of 30 different ways to inspire my ‘re-connect’ with nature. Here are some of my favourites:
Tips for taking a time-out in nature
- Read outside: Grab your coffee and a book and start your morning off with some fresh air
- Eat alfresco: Invite colleagues to take lunch outside or take your dinner to a local park
- Bring nature indoors: Enhance your home or workspace with plants, fresh flowers, shells, rocks or pine cones
- Get dirty: Exposure to soil bacteria Mycobacterium vaccae can act as a natural antidepressant, activating brain cells that improve mood, reduce anxiety and facilitate learning.
- Stargaze: Go outside on a clear evening and look at the sky. Stretch out on a blanket and relish the sense of perspective.
- Cloud watch: Look up! Cloud watching any time of the day clears the mind and calms the senses.
- Listen: Did you know birds have their own language? Instead of identifying species, pay attention to the behavior and communication of our feathered friends.
This month, I invite you to think about how to take advantage of the the warm summer weather and beautiful natural surroundings to re-introduce some nature into your life!
All my best,
Posted in Editorial, Miranda Massie | Tagged 30x30, David Suzuki Foundation, eating, editorial, gardening, health benefits, Miranda Massie, Nature, outdoors, plants, reading, summer, time out, weather, wellbeing | 1 Response
By Colin Hearne on July 3, 2014
Summer is the time when the outdoors beckons; we go to the beach in droves, have picnics, barbecues, paddle , fish and swim. Some hike, others bike, and many do both .But these good times in the outdoors are really an exception to the rule. The reality is most of us spend the vast majority of our time inside – with one estimate, reporting that the average North American spends 90% of his or her life inside. So with July in full swing, lets remind ourselves that being outdoors can be amazing – Here are five potential benefits of spending more time outdoors:
Your vitamin D levels will go up
Vitamin D is called the sunshine vitamin because sunlight hitting the skin begins the circuitous process that eventually leads to the creation of the biologically active form of the vitamin. Over all, research is showing that many vitamins, while necessary, don’t have such great disease-fighting powers, but vitamin D may prove to be the exception. Epidemiologic studies are suggesting it may have protective effects against everything from osteoporosis to cancer to depression to heart attacks and stroke. More answers may come from randomized trials, such as the VITamin D and OmegA-3 TriaL (VITAL), which will enroll 20,000 healthy men and women to see if taking 2,000 IU of vitamin D or 1,000 mg of fish oil daily lowers the risk of cancer, heart disease, and stroke. In the meantime the good news is that you’ll make all the vitamin D you need if you get outside a few times a week during these summer days and expose your arms and legs for 10 to 15 minutes. Of course, it has to be sunny out.
You’ll get more exercise
You don’t need to be outside to be active: millions of people exercise indoors in gyms or at home on treadmills and elliptical trainers. Still, there’s no question that indoor living is associated with being sedentary while being outdoors is associated with activity. According to Canadian broadcast measurement and consumer behaviour data, Numeris, The average Canadian adult may watch 30 hours of television a week – time that is spent mainly indoors and sitting down. Adults can go to the gym. Many prefer the controlled environment there. But if you make getting outside a goal, that should mean less time in front of the television and computer and more time walking, biking, gardening, cleaning up the yard, and doing other things that put the body in motion.
You’ll be happier
UBC Psychology professor Mark Holder leads a research team that identifies factors that contribute to happiness in children such as temperament, social relations, and spirituality. His team also investigates strategies to enhance happiness in adults. According to Dr Holder ‘There is no one-size-fits-all strategy. What makes one person happy may not work for another person. However, those who are happier are people who interact with and appreciate beauty in nature; people who exercise, volunteer, and have hobbies’. Additionally, researchers at the University of Essex in England are advancing the notion that exercising in the presence of nature has added benefit, particularly for mental health. Their investigations into “green exercise,” as they are calling it, dovetails with research showing benefits from living in proximity to green, open spaces. In 2010 the English scientists reported results from a meta-analysis of their own studies that showed just five minutes of green exercise resulted in improvements in self-esteem and mood.
Your concentration will improve
Researchers have, in fact, reported that children with ADHD seem to focus better after being outdoors. Researchers from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, found that children with ADHD scored higher on a test of concentration after a walk through a park than after a walk through a residential neighborhood or downtown area.
You may heal faster
University of Pittsburgh researchers reported in 2005 that spinal surgery patients experienced less pain and stress and took fewer pain medications during their recoveries if they were exposed to natural light. This is now also being addressed with the popularity of hospital gardens. Dismissed as peripheral to medical treatment for much of the 20th century, gardens are back in style, now featured in the design of most new hospitals. Much of this popularity has emerged from the research of psychologist Roger Ulrich, from the Texas A&M University. Ulrich and his team reviewed the medical records of people recovering from gallbladder surgery at a suburban Pennsylvania hospital. He found that patients with bedside windows looking out on leafy trees healed, on average, a day faster, needed significantly less pain medication and had fewer postsurgical complications than patients who instead saw a brick wall.
Your healthy outdoor lifestyle starts here! Attend a guided tour of UBC’s Botanical Gardens on July 20 @ 12.30pm. Click here for more information