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Posts Tagged ‘nature’

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States. When people think about heart health, they often think about the impact of diet and exercise. However, a growing body of research has also established a connection with positive thinking, optimism, and happiness.

For example, do you tend to view the cup as half empty or half full? If you view the cup as half full, you are less likely to develop heart disease than if you view the cup as half empty. While negative emotions such as depression and anger are risk factors for heart disease, optimism and happiness seem to protect the heart.

In one study, people with the most negative emotions had the highest risk for heart disease while people who scored highest for happiness had the lowest risk. In another study, women with the highest levels of optimism had a 38% lower risk of death from heart disease than those with negative attitudes. In this study, optimism was defined as feeling hopeful and confident about the future.

Cheerful diverse people together in a park

How can the connection between positive psychology and heart health be explained? Three possible explanations are:

  1. Lifestyle: Happy people tend to sleep better, eat better, smoke less, and get more exercise; all behaviors that lower the risk of heart disease.
  2. Physiology: Happiness produces positive chemical changes and reduces stress hormones.
  3. Genetics: People who are predisposed to happiness may also be predisposed to have lower rates of heart disease.

If you tend to see the cup half empty, don’t despair! Research suggests that negative people feel happier when they:

  • Express gratitude on a regular basis.
  • Practice being optimistic.
  • Initiate random acts of kindness.
  • Engage in mindfulness activities.
  • Visualize their best self.
  • Savor joyful events.
  • Practice forgiveness.
  • Get outside.

Medical professionals advocate that you should devote 15 to 20 minutes a day doing something that brings you joy. What can you commit to doing every day to increase your happiness and take care of your heart at the same time? We would love to hear your ideas and plans.

If you still find yourself searching for happiness but not quite achieving it, you should reach out and talk to a health care professional. Together, you should consider environmental factors that could be impacting you, such as your diet, lack of sleep, or potential mental health side effects from medication.

To learn more about the importance of happiness and your health, join us for Happiness 101 on August 25, 2021 at 12noon. To register for this free, 30-minute Wellness Wednesday Webinar sponsored by Live Healthy Live Well, visit: go.osu.edu/WellnessWeds

Written by: Laura Stanton, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Ohio State University Extension, Warren County, stanton.60@osu.edu.

Reviewed by: Pat Brinkman, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Ohio State University Extension, Fayette County, brinkman.93@osu.edu.

References:
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2020, September 8). Heart Disease Facts. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/heartdisease/facts.htm

Davidson, K. W., Mostofsky, E., & Whang, W. (2010). Don’t worry, be happy: positive affect and reduced 10-year incident coronary heart disease: the Canadian Nova Scotia Health Survey. European Heart Journal, 31(9), 1065–1070. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2862179

Kim, E. S., Hagan, K. A., Grodstein, F., DeMeo, D. L., De Vivo, I., & Kubzansky, L. D. (2017). Optimism and Cause-Specific Mortality: A Prospective Cohort Study. American Journal of Epidemiology, 185(1), 21–29. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5209589

Kraft, T. L., & Pressman, S. D. (2012). Grin and Bear It: The Influence of Manipulated Facial Expression on the Stress Response. Psychological Science, 23(11), 1372–1378. https://doi.org/10.1177/0956797612445312

Pitt, B. & Deldin, P.J. (2010). Depression and cardiovascular disease: have a happy day—just smile!, European Heart Journal, 31(9), 1036–1037. https://doi.org/10.1093/eurheartj/ehq031

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When was the last time you fell in love? Maybe it was when you found a special someone, got a new puppy or saw a beautiful grand-baby for the first time. What about falling in love with nature? It only takes a moment to stop and notice things happening in nature, and the good news is you do not have to be a naturalist to reap the benefits of bringing nature into your daily life!

Experiencing nature can be a simple as stopping to notice the big, puffy white clouds in the sky or watching the sun set from your window. The other day I found beautiful bright pink pinecones on a tree that I walk by every single day and never noticed. When we stop and notice the little things in nature, we begin experiencing a deeper connection to something more.

Pink pinecones
Photo source: Shari Gallup, 2021. “Pink Pinecones.”

Nature has a way of calming and healing the human mind and body. Have you ever noticed that you feel happier when you spend time in nature?

Spending time in nature can reduce blood pressure, heart rate and muscle tension. Research done in hospitals, offices and schools found that the presence of a plant in a workroom can decrease stress and anxiety, and office plants have been shown to reduce employee sick days and improve work productivity.

It is easy to let daily life go by with the busyness of ballgames, work, and other activities, but it only takes a moment to stop and “smell the roses.”  If it is not possible to get outside, here are a few ways to bring nature inside:

Bring plants indoors: I keep a mint plant on my desk and between meetings, I scratch the leaf to release the oil scent and take a few deep breaths in through my nose. My eyes naturally begin to close, and I become calm. Plants help reduce stress and tension. Choose plants that you enjoy and that are easy to grow indoors, or bring in fresh flowers and place them in a container where you can see them.  

Bring the smell of nature indoors: Bring in aromatic flowers, herbs, or pinecones, or use diffusers, candles, or sprays in natural scents like pine, citrus, lavender, or lemon.

Watch the birds:  Set up a bird or suet feeder near a popular window, grab a pair of binoculars if you have one, and watch nature from indoors. There is a lot of great information available from the National Audubon Society if you are new to bird watching, and there are many benefits to becoming a bird nerd

If you want to fall in love with nature, start with something small at first, or choose just one of the suggestions above and go slow…that’s the whole idea!

If you would like to learn more, please join me for a free class on Nature and Nutrition on June 9th at noon!  Register at https://go.osu.edu/wellnessweds.

Written by Shari Gallup, MS, Certified Health and Wellness Coach, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, OSU Extension Licking County

Reviewed by Jenny Lobb, MPH, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, OSU Extension Franklin County and Laura Stanton, MS, Family and Sciences Educator, OSU Extension Warren County.

Sources:

Beans, Laura (2014).  Study Shows Living Close to Nature Improves Mental Health. https://www.ecowatch.com/study-shows-living-close-to-nature-improves-mental-health-1881858780.html

National Initiative for Consumer Horticulture (2015). #PlantsDoThat. https://consumerhort.org/plantsdothat-3/

University of Minnesota. Taking Charge of Your Wellbeing. Healing Environment. https://www.takingcharge.csh.umn.edu/explore-healing-practices/healing-environment  

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A great way to celebrate Earth Day is spending time outside and connecting with nature. Time in nature offers an easy and inexpensive way to increase your happiness, improve your mood, and feel part of something larger than yourself. Studies have shown that getting outside can:

  • Improve your memory and attention: After just an hour interacting with nature, memory performance and attention spans improved by 20%. In workplaces designed with nature in mind, employees are more productive and take less sick time.
  • Heal: Patients in hospital rooms with a view of trees had shorter stays and less need for pain medications compared to patients with views of brick.
  • Improve psychological well-being: Joggers who exercised in a natural green setting felt less anxious, angry, or depressed than people who jogged in an urban setting.
Child running outside under flowering trees

We also know from research that children who spend time outdoors are more likely to develop positive environmental attitudes and behaviors as adults. One of the best ways you can take care of our planet is to encourage children and youth to get outside.

Richard Louv, author of Last Child in the Woods, has created an expansive list of activities to encourage children to spend more time outdoors. Here are just a few ideas you can try with your children or grandchildren:

  1. Maintain a birdbath, grow native plants, or build a bat house. For more ideas, read National Audubon Society’s Invitation to a Healthy Yard.
  2. Collect lightning bugs at dusk and release them at dawn.
  3. Keep a terrarium or aquarium and learn about the plants and animals you observe.
  4. Be a cloud spotter; build a backyard weather station. A young person just needs a view of the sky. Check out The Kid’s Book of Weather Forecasting for more ideas.
  5. Encourage a “green hour” every day. Give kids a daily green hour that includes time outside, unstructured play, and interaction with the natural world.
  6. Collect stones. Even the youngest children love gathering rocks, shells, and fossils. Read Rock and Fossil Hunter by Ben Morgan together.
  7. Learn about and raise butterflies. Consider purchasing a monarch rearing kit and growing milkweed so you can hatch and release your own butterflies.
  8. Hang up a bird feeder and watch birds. Have them close their eyes and just listen. For more tips, check out National Audubon Society’s Easy Ways to Get Kids Birding and Bird Sleuth Investigator from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

No matter what you do while you are outdoors, remember that simply going outside is the most important step. Despite all the positive benefits of being outdoors, according to the EPA, Americans spend approximately 90% of their time indoors. On this Earth Day, make a pledge to get out more and bring some young people with you. Nurturing the next generation of our planet’s caretakers is a perfect way to celebrate!

References:

Bratman, G. N., Daily, G. C., Levy, B. J., & Gross, J. J. (2015). The benefits of nature experience: Improved affect and cognition. Landscape and Urban Planning, 138, 41-50. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.landurbplan.2015.02.005

Louv, R. (2008). Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder. Chapel Hill, NC: Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill.

Taylor, A. & Kuo, M. (2006). Is contact with nature important for healthy child development? state of the evidence. Children and their Environments: Learning, Using and Designing Spaces. 124-140.
https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9780511521232.009

Ulrich, R. S. (1984). View through a window may influence recovery from surgery. Science, 224 (4647), 420–421. https://doi.org/10.1126/science.6143402

Wells, N. M. & Lekies, K. S., (2006). Nature and the life course: Pathways from childhood nature experiences to adult environmentalism. Children, Youth and Environments, 16 (1), 41663.

Written by: Laura M. Stanton, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Ohio State University Extension, Warren County, stanton.60.osu.edu.

Reviewed by: Shari Gallup, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Ohio State University Extension, Licking County, gallup.1@osu.edu.

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Last year, I transformed into a self-proclaimed bird nerd. The change started in the spring of 2020 when I started working from home because of COVID. I placed my desk next to a window and in April, I noticed a robin building a nest. Watching the robin sit on her nest for hours upon hours was fascinating and I was quickly hooked.

In May, bluebirds visited my suburban backyard for the first time and after putting up a bluebird house, we hosted the pair of bluebirds and their 3 adorable babies several weeks later. I was fascinated by the whole process, from the nesting, feeding, and successful fledging (developing wing feathers that are large enough for flight). I cheered the first day the babies flew out of their box and also experienced sadness when they left their house for good. My sorrow was quickly replaced with joy when a pair of Baltimore orioles passed through for a couple of days. I was enthralled watching the colorful birds eat the grape jelly I set out. Summer brought ruby-throated hummingbirds and warblers. This winter, I am enjoying a barred owl who lives nearby and occasionally graces me with his majestic presence.

Picture of a Barred Owl by Laura Stanton.
Barred Owl
Photo by Laura M. Stanton

Although the joy of birding happens right outside my window most days, whenever possible, I safely visit different habitats to expand the variety of birds to watch. Whether I am inside or outside, I notice so much more than just the birds. I notice positive changes happening within.

The benefits I have experienced from watching our feathered friends have been confirmed by research. Why is birding good for your health? Watching birds:

  • Is a form of mindfulness. Mindfulness is paying attention on purpose, in the moment, and without judgment. Whether you are birding inside or out, you are in the “here and now” which has been shown to decrease stress, anxiety, and rumination, and improve attention, memory, and focus. In addition, mindfulness can reduce chronic pain.
  • Requires stealth and silence. Spending time in silence lowers blood pressure, increases blood flow, and enhances sleep. Silence can also be therapeutic for depression.
  • Encourages meditation. During meditation, you eliminate the “noise” in your mind, creating a sense of calm and peace that benefits your emotional well-being and your overall health.
  • Relies on your sense of sight and hearing. A study found that just listening to bird song contributes to perceived attention restoration and stress recovery. Click here to listen to a sample of common bird songs.
  • Prevents nature-deficit disorder, a phenomenon related to the growing disconnect between humans and the natural world. Americans, on average, spend approximately 90% of their time indoors.
  • Benefits your heart. Regular exposure to nature is associated with improvements in cardiovascular disease and longevity.
  • Stimulates a sense of gratitude, which is strongly and consistently associated with greater happiness.

Sources
Carter, S. (2016). Nature deficit disorder. Live Smart Ohio. Retrieved from https://livesmartohio.osu.edu/mind-and-body/carter-413osu-edu/nature-deficit-disorder   

Louv, R. (2008). Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder. Algonquin Books: Chapel Hill, NC.

Powers-Barker, P. (2016). Introduction to mindfulness. Ohioline. Retrieved from
https://ohioline.osu.edu/factsheet/hyg-5243

Stanton, L. M. (2020). Barred Owl. JPEG file.

Stanton, L. M. (2020). Noises off: The benefits of silence. Live Smart Ohio. Retrieved from
https://livesmartohio.osu.edu/mind-and-body/stanton-60osu-edu/noises-off-the-benefit-of-silence

Written by Laura M. Stanton, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Ohio State University Extension, Warren County, stanton.60.osu.edu

Reviewed by Misty Harmon, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Ohio State University Extension, Perry County, harmon.416@osu.edu

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Today is often considered the “unofficial” start to summer. That means longer days and warmer weather for getting outside. However, this summer brings a new and unsettling guest: COVID-19. To help you stay safe while you are outdoors, the Ohio Department of Health and the National Recreation and Park Association have made the following recommendations:

  • Follow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidance on personal hygiene. Wash hands, carry hand sanitizer, and stay home if you have any symptoms.
  • Follow recommendations for face masks and physical distancing.
  • Only go outdoors with those who live under the same roof.
  • Visit places that are close to your home. Refrain from travel that requires you to stop along the way or be in close contact with others.
  • If a parking lot is full or blocked, move on. Do not park in grass or on roadways.
  • Warn others of your presence and step off trails to allow others to pass safely.
  • Expect public restrooms to be closed.
  • Bring water or drinks. Drinking fountains should not be used.
  • Bring a bag for trash and leave no trace.
COVID-19: Physical Distancing in Public Parks and Trails

Plan Your Trip Before Heading Out

Currently, most outdoor spaces in Ohio state parks, wildlife areas, forests, natural areas, and preserves are open. This includes trails, dog parks, docks, fishing piers, and boat ramps.

At this time, state lodges, visitor centers, playgrounds, and rest rooms remain closed. Visit Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) for the most up to date information about what state facilities are open and closed.

If you plan to go somewhere other than an ODNR facility, do some research before leaving. Most places have a website or a Facebook page with updated visitor information.

Expect places to be crowded. If you step off a trail, avoid poison ivy or tall grass that might have ticks. Practice sun safety to protect your skin and your eyes.

Find New Places to Explore

If you need help finding new places to explore, try these tips:

  • Start local. Ask neighbors and friends to recommend their favorite places to explore. A quick internet search can help you find local destinations, depending on what you want to do. Try a search such as “places to hike near me” and you will quickly find destinations, reviews, and images.
  • Visit Ohio Trails Partnership. Click the “Find a Trail” tab to find destinations based on geographical regions.
  • Diversify your destinations. In addition to state wildlife areas, forests, and nature preserves operated by ODNR, there are also private nature centers and preserves. For recommendations, try a search such as “nature areas near me.”

Get Outside and Experience the Great Outdoors

Remember to be safe and do some homework before leaving home. Be sure to check the CDC, ODH, and ODNR websites since COVID-19 updates happen frequently. Then, get outside, breath in some fresh air, and reap the physical, mental, and psychological benefits of being outdoors. Enjoy!

Sources:

Cloth Face Coverings (Masks) COVID-19 Checklist. Ohio Department of Health. Retrieved from https://coronavirus.ohio.gov/wps/portal/gov/covid-19/checklists/english-checklists/cloth-face-coverings-covid-19-checklist

Dolesh, R.J. and Colman, A. (2020, March 16). Keeping a Safe Physical Distance in Parks and on Trails During the COVID-19 Pandemic. Retrieved from https://www.nrpa.org/blog/keeping-a-safe-social-distance-in-parks-and-on-trails-during-the-covid-19-pandemic

Ducharme, J. (2019, February 28). Spending Just 20 Minutes in a Park Makes You Happier. Here’s What Else Being Outside Can Do for Your Health. Retrieved from https://time.com/5539942/green-space-health-wellness

Social Distancing. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prevent-getting-sick/social-distancing.html

Symptoms of Coronavirus. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/symptoms-testing/symptoms.html

WRITTEN BY: Laura Stanton, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Ohio State University Extension, Warren County.

REVIEWED BY: Dan Remley, Field Specialist, Food Nutrition and Wellness, Ohio State University Extension.

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Two children in hiking clothes next to a sign that says Alum Cave Trail. Trees are in the background.

The fall is a great time to get outdoors for a day hike. Day hiking is a low impact physical activity, and offers the countless health benefits of being outdoors. Being in nature, or even seeing scenes in nature, reduces anxiety, stress, improves moods and cognitive functioning. In addition to feeling better emotionally, nature contributes to physical health including reducing blood pressure, heart rate, muscle tension, and the production of stress hormones!

Getting Ready for a Day Hike

Hiking is a fairly, low-cost activity. Needed supplies for a half day or day hike include:

  • A comfortable pair of hiking boots or shoes
  • a backpack
  • water bottle
  • food or snacks
  • sunscreen, use even on a cloudy day to avoid burns
  • bug-spray

Dress in layers of clothing so you can add or remove as you get sweaty or take breaks. Non-cotton shirts that fit tight and wick up sweat should be the bottom layer. This will keep you dry and your temperature regulated. Changes in elevation may cause temperature changes as well.  Check the weather before you go out but be prepared for anything. Rain gear such as ponchos are inexpensive and light.

Food and Water

Nutrition is important to keep energy levels up. Consider the five major food groups when planning meals and snacks: fruits, vegetables, protein, grains, and dairy. A mixture of protein and carbohydrates before, during and after the hike will keep your blood glucose steady and will help you replenish energy stores at the end of the hike. Raisins and Peanuts (GORP) is the perfect snack as it blends protein and carbohydrate. Energy bars are also helpful but can be expensive. For hikes lasting for 2 hours or more think about food safety. Keep foods that you would normally refrigerate (meats, dairy, cooked grains, leftovers, cut fruits and vegetables) cool at 40 degrees or below in an insulated pack with ice.

Hydration is critical. Be sure to drink fluid (preferably water) on a regular bases even if you aren’t thirsty. As a general rule, bring about 2 cups of fluids for every hour of hiking, and drink about 4 cups prior to hiking to prevent cramping.

Other precautions

Be wary of poisonous plants such as poison ivy and ticks. Stay on the trail as much as possible to avoid both of these problems.  Consider wearing treated clothing or bug spray on clothes, especially under the waist to avoid ticks. Tick borne illnesses are becoming more common. If possible bring a map of the trail or use GPS. It’s always a good idea to bring a friend, especially if you are a beginner hiker.

For more in-depth information on hiking, sign up for OSU Extension’s three part webinar series: Hiking and Health at go.osu.edu/hikinghealth. The webinar series is created by Family and Consumer Sciences and Ag & Natural Resources specialists who have a passion for the great outdoors. This series will aim to provide education and insight into how to properly prepare to spend time in the woods. This series will cover a variety of topics related to hiking and health, such as:

  • Food safety on the trail
  • Proper hydration techniques
  • Tick prevention
  • Plant identification
  • Proper gear selection
  • And more!

When: Tuesday October 8th, 15th, and 22nd from 11:30am – 12:30pm!

Where: Zoom! Once you register at go.osu.edu/hikinghealth, you’ll be sent Zoom links to participate in each webinar.

Author: Dan Remley, PhD, Associate Professor and Field Specialist, Food, Nutrition and Wellness, OSU Extension

Reviewer:  Pat Brinkman, Associate Professor and Family and Consumer Sciences Extension Educator, OSU Extension

Sources:

University of Minnesota. 2016. How does Nature Impact our Wellbeing? https://www.takingcharge.csh.umn.edu/how-does-nature-impact-our-wellbeing

Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. 2019. 5 Tips for Camping and Hiking. https://www.takingcharge.csh.umn.edu/how-does-nature-impact-our-wellbeing

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drink colorful color tube

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

My teenage daughter lectures me from time to time about overusing plastics, especially those that can’t be recycled. We’ve bought reusable straws to use at home, and I get dirty looks if I take a straw at a restaurant. I’ve been wondering why using a plastic straw would be detrimental to my health and well-being. Turns out there is a dimension of wellness called Environmental Wellness. We may not think much about Environmental Wellness as part of an overall wellness plan that might include eating more fruits and vegetables, but our environment and how we feel about it can have a huge impact on the way we feel overall.

Environmental well-being includes trying to live in balance with the nature by understanding the impact of your interaction with nature and your personal environment, and taking action to protect the world around you. Protecting yourself from environmental hazards and minimizing the negative impact of your behavior on the environment are also central elements.

According to University California- Riverside leading a lifestyle that is respectful to our environment and minimizes any harm done to it is a critical part of environmental wellness. Environmental wellness involves a number of different aspects of personal and societal responsibilities, but generally relates to being aware of earths natural resources (soil, water, clean air) and their limits, understanding how daily habits impact natural resources, and being accountable by taking actions to minimize our impact on natural resources. Some questions to ask yourself:

  • Do I recycle?
  • If I see something damaging to the environment, do I take the steps to fix the problem?
  • Do I volunteer time to worthy causes to protect soil, water, air, or wildlife?
  • Do I take time to appreciate my environment (go hiking, fishing, meditate, swim in stream or lake)?

If you answered “No” to any of the questions, it may indicate an area where you need to improve the state of your environmental wellness.

Recycling– Recycling saves energy and natural resources. For example, recycling one ton of office paper can save the energy equivalent of consuming 322 gallons of gasoline! Some cities offer recycling programs that pick up your recycled products at your curb. In other communities, you may have to collect your recycles and drive them to a designated recycle bin. The EPA offers some good information about what can and can’t be recycled, and recycling centers are all different in terms of what they can and can’t accept. In general, glass, cardboard, paper, food and beverage cans, jugs, plastic bottles, food boxes can be recycled. Other items such as Styrofoam, and soiled products can’t. Follow the rules, otherwise recycling centers have to spend time, energy and resources to filter out products that can’t be recycled.

Hazardous materials and situations– Some materials such as oil, paint, cleaners chemicals, and other products can pollute soil and water. Oil from one oil change for example can pollute thousands of gallons of water. Many commercial garages will accept used oil, and other businesses might accept paint and other materials.

Volunteering- Consider volunteering at a national, state or local park. Maintaining trails, planting trees, cleaning up streams and rivers are all volunteer activities that might contribute to your environmental wellness. The AARP offers some ideas on volunteering to help the environment.

Appreciate the environment– Appreciating the environment and natural resources will help motivate you and your family to change habits. Set a goal to get outside and appreciate the soil, air and water. Hike, fish, hunt, camp, swim, garden and even meditate outdoors!

Getting back to straws- although straws are only a fraction of plastics waste, they have become a poster child for single use plastics that wind up consumed by wildlife and found on beaches. In fact each human on the planet consumes around 88 pounds of plastic a year! Cutting back on straws can be a gateway to making many other changes in your life to improve your environmental wellness!!

Sources:

University of California Riverside. Environmental Wellness at https://wellness.ucr.edu/environmental_wellness.html

Environmental Protection Agency. Recycling 101 at https://www.epa.gov/recycle/frequent-questions-recycling

American Association of Retired Persons. 5 ways you can help the environment. https://www.aarp.org/giving-back/info-09-2012/fun-ways-to-help-environment.html

Author: Dan Remley, Field Specialist, Associate Professor, Ohio State University Extension

Reviewer: Susan Zies, Extension Educator, Ohio State University Extension

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One of my goals for this year is to explore mindfulness. In this blog, I want to share a few things that I’ve learned about this life changing topic.

According to Jon Kabat-Zinn, a pioneer in American mindfulness,
“Mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way, on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally.”

Path in forest I enjoy being outside in nature. I have often wondered why this is relaxing for me. Why is it that I breathe deeper and feel a sense of calmness come over me while enjoying the beauty of nature?

I have learned that it has to do with the focus on my surroundings and mental relaxation that I experience from being in nature. Moving mindfully provides us with several benefits and can help increase the awareness of our bodies and the surroundings around us. According to the American Heart Association, some benefits of mindful movement may include:

  • Manage stress, depression and insomnia
  • Lower blood pressure
  • Improve balance and stability
  • Relieve chronic pain
  • Improve quality of life and mood in people with heart disease, cancer and other chronic illnesses
  • Motivate you to exercise more and eat healthier

One reason that I enjoy exploring mindfulness in nature is that I am paying attention to my surroundings and experiencing several senses: sight, smell, touch, and hearing. Watching the way that a blade of grass blows in the wind, feeling wind in your face, hearing the rustle of leaves, watching clouds drift across the sky are all examples of ways that we can pay attention to the details in nature. You can also enjoy these visual cues while looking out your window.picture of woods with trees, wildflowers

Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, Integrative and Complementary Medicine website offers several Mindfulness practices for you to explore. Click on the link and check out their resources.

Take time during your busy life to check out nature as I did this past weekend. I visited one of my favorite spots in the town where I live. A 90-year-old man has 4 acres of paths and trails through his back yard. You can walk and explore the Hosta plants and wildflowers he has planted over the years. One year he shared with me he planted 3,000 daffodil bulbs!  Imagine all those beautiful flowers!

Share in the comments how you enjoy mindfulness in nature.

Sources:

Dreskin, M., Smith, S. & Kane, D., Kaiser Permanente Clinical Ambassadors. Retrieved from: https://m.kp.org/health-wellness/mental-health/tools-resources/mind-body-wellness/movement-benefits

Powers-Barker, P., 2106. Introduction to Mindfulness. Ohioline Factsheet number HYG-5243. Ohio State University. Retrieved from: https://ohioline.osu.edu/factsheet/hyg-5243

Suttie, J., 2018. Five Ways Mindfulness Meditation is Good for your Health. Retrieved from: https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/five_ways_mindfulness_meditation_is_good_for_your_health

Hostas courtesy of Cory’s Wildflower Gardens, Chillicothe, Ohio.

Written by: Michelle Treber, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Ohio State University Extension, Pickaway County, treber.1@osu.edu

Reviewed by: Beth Stefura, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Ohio State University Extension, Mahoning County, Stefura.2@osu.edu

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The term Nature Deficit Disorder was coined by author Richard Louv in his book “Last Child in the Woods” to describe the phenomena of children and youth becoming disconnected from nature. Adults can certainly suffer from nature deficit disorder, but chances are, most adults spent more time outside as children than our kids do today. Research is linking nature deficit with some disturbing child outcomes, such as increases in obesity, attention disorders and depression as well as diminished use of one’s senses.

Some of the reasons for this disconnect with nature in recent decades include urbanization and disappearing green spaces, spending more time indoors, and increased use of technology and electronic communications. These trends contribute to a devaluing of independent play and what health experts are calling the “epidemic of inactivity.” The time kids spend outdoors is increasingly spent in structured play or organized sports, instead of ‘playing in nature.’ Unstructured play in nature allows for developing problem-solving, creativity and emotional development, according Dr. Stephen Kellert of Yale University. In his book “Building for Life: Designing and Understanding Human-Nature Connection,” Kellert urges community leaders and urban designers to consider green space and creating opportunities for children to have positive interactions with nature on a daily basis.

nature unpluggedWe can reverse this nature deficit disorder for ourselves and our children. Connecting with nature can have physical, mental and social health benefits for adults and children alike. Research results found that spending time in nature can help prevent cancer cell development, strengthen the immune system and aid in stress reduction. The Children and Nature Network is dedicated to connecting children, families and communities to nature through innovative ideas, evidence-based resources, and collaborative efforts. The Children and Nature Network’s Toolkits offer these ideas to get your family connected:

Nature is everywhere. You can find nature by planting seeds in a pot on the front porch or sketching a tree as well as by venturing into a wild preserve.
Be prepared. In order to get the most from your time outdoors, bring along snacks, water, sunscreen, and even a change of clothes in case your kids get wet or cold.
Embrace the elements. Dress for the weather, stomp in a puddle, enjoy a rainy or snowy walk in the park.
Model curiosity. If you see plants or animals or holes or nests you can’t identify, show your curiosity. Kids have a natural sense of wonder and this can lead to some awesome discoveries. You can look things up together when you get home.
Bring friends. Your family can bond in the company of other families; in fact, you might have even more fun!
Create stories. At the end of the day, have each family member talk about their favorite part of the time spent outdoors. These will become part of your family lore. You can revisit those places and support the wonderful connections you’ve built together outdoors in nature.

Make it a goal to spend an hour outside each week, connecting with nature and with others. See this PBS article for more ideas on how to help your kids get plugged into nature. You can also check out your local parks for nature education programs. Richard Louv offers a Resource Guide full of ideas for connecting with nature.

Get outside.   Get connected.   Get into nature.

WRITTEN BY: Shannon Carter, Extension Educator, Family & Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Fairfield County

REVIEWED BY: Candace Heer, Extension Educator, Family & Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Morrow County

PHOTO CREDITS:

  • Photo taken and edited by Shannon Carter; original idea for text on picture taken from popular press

SOURCES:

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nature

Eco therapy or the growing field of outdoor practices connects us to the healing benefits of nature. Decrease stress, improve your immune response, lower your blood pressure and make your sleep more peaceful by using these strategies.

Go outside. Researchers in the United States and Japan have determined that simply being in nature helps lower blood pressure. Is it the view? Or the smell of trees? Maybe walking on a trail or looking for signs of spring?
People suffering from stress, illness or a trauma can benefit from spending quiet time in nature to heal. Explore walking in the gardens, hiking in the mountains, or walking trails in the woods. Nature is not only wilderness. The benefits of nature can also be found in our communities’ parks and green spaces. If you enjoy hiking outdoors, great! Researchers have linked lowered blood pressure and improved immune response to exercising outdoors. They found that being physically active outside increases these benefits more than the same activity completed inside or in urban settings.

Once you are outside, move! Regular exercise has been proven to help control depression and reduce stress. Try movements you enjoy, such as biking, walking or gardening. An added bonus includes exercises that focus the mind on the present movement. Dance, yoga and martial arts have all been shown to have excellent stress-relief benefits.

Be mindful.
Spend time each day to ground and center your mind. This helps bring focus and peace to your daily life. How do you do this? Relax and breathe deeply or focus on your breath. Mindfulness is paying attention in a particular way, on purpose in the present moment. For example, pay more attention as you’re brushing your teeth, taking a shower or taking a walk outdoors. Zero in on the sight, smell, sound, taste and feel of these activities. Mindfulness is a practice that trains your brain to be more efficient and better integrated with less distractions and improved focus. It reduces stress and helps you become your best self.

Written by: Beth Stefura, Extension Educator, The Ohio State University, Mahoning County, stefura.2@osu.edu
Reviewed by: Michelle Treber, Extension Educator, The Ohio State University, Pickaway County, treber.1@osu.edu

Resources: http://www.webmd.com/balance/features/nature-therapy-ecotherapy

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