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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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I notice trees more in the spring than any time of year, even fall. In Ohio, we have an abundance of redbud and dogwood that pepper our buckeye landscape. At a geographic health conference I attended a few years ago, there was a seminar on the value of trees, urban forests and green space on public health. I have been aware of economic and environmental benefits of natural features but have not considered the public health benefits. Environmental and economic benefits include reducing carbon dioxide and air pollutants, providing shade near homes and reducing air conditioning costs, and adding value to real estate to name a few.

According to University of Washington professor Kathleen Wolf, who was the speaker at this conference, there is a growing body of research documenting the public health benefits of trees and natural features. As you’ve probably heard, 2 out 3 adults do not get enough physical activity which contributes to the obesity and diabetes epidemics. The “built environment” where people live can have an impact on their behaviors. Studies suggest that people are more likely to walk places in communities that have more trees and natural features. Tree-lined sidewalks have more pedestrian traffic than those that do not. One reason for this phenomenon is that trees and natural features might influence motivations and perceptions. People judge tree-lined walking routes to have shorter distance those routes that do not have trees. People also feel that trees can give them more protection from cars if they are planted between roads and sidewalks.

Trees and natural features can have a positive impact on emotional well being- such as reducing stress. In one particular study, mentioned by the presenter, people with elevated blood pressure were asked to take a long walk. Those who walked in a nature preserve showed a decline in blood pressure, while it increased for those walking in the urban environment. Also, subjects walking in the nature preserve showed increases in positive emotions, while those in the urban environment showed reduced levels. Children who are exposed to trees and natural surrounding are more likely to have positive developmental outcomes and less likely to have attention deficit disorder. Inner city girls exposed to natural views at home have more self discipline and better concentration.

Communities and buildings surrounded by more trees and green space also report less vandalism and less crime. One theory is that natural areas build community. In other words, more people are likely to spend time outside getting to know their neighbors and thus look out for each other.

Plant a tree this spring!!

Source: http://depts.washington.edu/hhwb/

 

 

 

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