Nurtured by Nature: The Benefits of Nature Walks
Do you want to be happier? Reduce your stress? Improve attention?
I have one simple activity that can do all this, for free…nature walks.
Psychological research is advancing our understanding of how time in nature can improve our mental health and sharpen our cognition, including improved attention, lower stress, better mood, reduced risk of psychiatric disorders, and even upticks in empathy and cooperation.
- You aren’t staring at a device; instead, you are looking at nature, which allows the eyes to relax and reduces eye strain.
- You promote blood circulation, increase your heart rate and lung capacity, and flood your body with oxygen. All great things!
- Listening to the sounds of nature calms the body by altering connections in our brain that reduce our body’s natural fight-or-flight instinct. Nature sounds distract us from daily anxiety and worries, redirecting our tensions and stresses outward to outside objects and movements.
- If you bring a friend, you can get and give a free therapy session.
You don’t need to travel to the Poconos or Delaware Water Gap to get the benefits. Although, those are great day trips to take with your kids, especially now with the beauty fall brings. Walking around your neighborhood or a local park has just as many benefits.
As I recover from spinal surgery, one of the only things I can do is walk, and you had better believe I do. My husband and I walk our son to school with our dog each morning. We do about a mile, and at night, we do another with the dog in the dark, which I love! Walking at night is so therapeutic. Everything is muffled and quiet, and I feel so at peace afterward.
Don’t believe me? Lisa Nisbet, Ph.D, a psychologist at Trent University in Ontario, Canada, who studies connectedness to nature, states, “There is mounting evidence, from dozens and dozens of researchers, that nature has benefits for both physical and psychological human wellbeing. You can boost your mood just by walking in nature, even urban nature. And your connection with the natural world seems to contribute to happiness even when you’re not physically immersed in nature.”
It’s supposed to be beautiful this weekend, so carve some time for yourself and your family to walk. It doesn’t have to be long. 15 minutes will do. Perhaps you can turn it into a daily activity and improve your family’s overall health. They will thank you for it.
From a wellness standpoint, the best way to improve brain health is meditation—now more than ever. Each generation alive today is bombarded with information and has fallen victim to the “Have Now” culture.
In the recent past, people would have to wait to get music, books, movies, and consumer products. Today–Amazon gets it to you within hours if you want. Think about your life 10 years ago, 15 years ago, 20 years ago. When you were bored, what did you do then compared to now? How often did you sit in quiet contemplation because there wasn’t any other choice?
Today, as soon as we are bored, out comes a device. Waiting in line at the market… Commercials on TV…Waiting at the doctor’s office… I know I fall victim to this as well. When I cook, I listen to an audiobook. When I run, I listen to music. However, when I feel really stressed, I try to switch everything off and enjoy the simple act of cutting an onion or listening to the leaves rustle, and my feet pound the pavement. It is important to train our brains to fight the “Have Now” culture, and remember how to sit in quiet contemplation again.
This is where meditation comes in. Meditation comes in many forms, but it all serves the same purpose: to quiet the mind, increase self-awareness in your emotional, mental, and physical self, and improve your overall life.
Research has shown that daily meditation strengthens areas of your brain responsible for memory, learning, attention, and self-awareness.
Not only that, a daily meditation practice can also help calm the sympathetic nervous system, keeping you out of fight or flight and putting you into a state of calm.
What is meditation? Well, that is a big question because there are so many types. One type that many of you may have tried or at least are familiar with is prayer. It doesn’t matter to whom or what you pray, but you are using quiet contemplation to work through your emotions and give yourself to a higher power.
I’m not saying that meditation is religious. It is not. It is merely a tool to help you calm the body and quiet the mind, which is exactly what prayer does for most.
A popular form of meditation is moving meditations like Yoga, Tai Chi, and QiGong, which all match breath to movement, allowing the mind to relax and help you become more in tune with your body. Anyone can do these styles of meditation, and have tons of variations to accommodate any age or ability.
Another meditation is chanting. Using one’s voice is a powerful tool. With chanting, the vibrations in the throat and nondescript sounds act like white or brown noise. Brown noise differs from white noise by using lower frequencies to affect our emotional state and help improve sleep and anxiety.
Yet another form of meditation is visual or guided meditation. In this type of meditation, a practitioner guides you to a meditative state through visual description and cues to help you relax. Imagine you are in a cool forest under a canopy of trees. Feel the springy grass beneath your toes…
Lastly, is breathwork, which is simply consciously controlling your breath. This is my favorite and has gotten me out of many tough situations. I use it for migraines, pain control, insomnia, memory, and to soothe. Recently, I underwent a cervical spinal fusion, and instead of dipping into the opioids, I used breathwork. Sadly, chanting was out since they went through my throat—which is my preferred pain control.
To sum up, meditation helps us to stop and take the time to reflect on our day and give our brains the chance to absorb and retain those events, feelings, words, or thoughts for the future. In this fast-paced world, we don’t take the time each day to sit with our thoughts; meditation gives us that opportunity. The effects on the brain are one more added perk to the many other benefits meditation can have on your life.
Airmid’s Meditation Offerings:
New to meditation? Try Jesse’s Meditation for Beginner’s Workshop on Fri. November 7th from 7p-8p.
Having difficulty sleeping? Try Radiant Rest Meditation on Sundays at 9:30a.
Need a lunchtime pick-me-up? Try Get Grounded to Manage Stress on Tuesdays at 12p.
Need to relax and pamper yourself? Try Self Care Healing Workshop on Sunday, December 3rd, from 4p-5:30p.
Check out our Movement Classes.
Now that summer is ending, it’s time to prepare your body for the seasonal changes ahead.
The Autumnal Equinox is on September 23 and officially marks the start of fall…so you still have time to eat the fresh fruits and veggies the summer bounty provides.
However, since September is already rife with change due to back to school and the approaching holidays, it is extra important to prepare our bodies for this new season.
Here are a few easy hacks to help you embrace the seasonal shift with ease:
1 – Eat Warming Foods & Drinks: Spices and root vegetables are on the menu for fall. Bring on the soups, stews, and pumpkin-flavored everything! Shift from your iced lattes and cold brews to hot beverages, especially spiced teas like chai, cinnamon, clove, and ginger. The key is to eat and drink warm foods and drinks to warm the body as the cold begins to set in.
Health Hack – Eat Pumpkin! It is high in beta-carotene, which your body turns into vitamin A. Studies show that vitamin A can strengthen your immune system and help fight infections. Give it to your dog. It gives them a shiny coat and helps them transition into colder weather as well.
2 – Monitor Your and your Kids Stress Levels: Back to School, Fall Sports, Halloween, Thanksgiving, and the sprint toward Christmas and Hanukkah lay ahead. The lazy days of summer are a memory, and we must wait another year for those sunny, carefree days…or do we? Don’t wait to deal with stress. You should practice stress relief techniques daily and be a role model for your children. Healthy meals and non-screen family time, such as walks and crafts, are needed.
Health Hack: Fill the crockpot with root vegetables and warming spices in the morning. When you and the family get home to a dark house after practice or a hard day at work or school, you can skip the fast food lines and enjoy a healthy meal together.
3 – Prepare for Fall Allergies: Mildew, mold, and dust mites can trigger many unwelcome symptoms in the Fall. Dust mites are rampant in schools that have been shuttered all summer.
Health Hack: Local honey is pollinated by local bees, which helps you fight allergies. Nettle leaf, peppermint, and red raspberry leaf teas are a great supplement to antihistamines.
4 – Stay Active & Connect with Nature: No one can deny that the change of season is beautiful. The changing leaves make everyone pause, but for how long? A look out the window as you rush from one commitment to the next? Connecting with nature plays a significant role in improving our physical and mental health. Just 10 minutes in nature reduces stress and depression and helps you feel happier.
Health hack: Daily evening walks with the family enjoying the beautiful foliage.
5 – Moisturize and hydrate: Dehydration causes stress on the body, and drinking at least 5 glasses of water a day is an easy way to stay healthy. The fall weather is dry, which dries out our skin. Skin is the biggest organ in the body and helps regulate body temperature and protects us from the external environment, so it is vital to keep it nourished.
Health Hack: Set water intake goals in your family, and make it a fun competition.
Want more? Need help preparing? Try Juli Eckmeier’s Wholistic Health for the Fall on Sunday, September 24th, 6p – 8p.
There is only one certainty in life—we are born, and we will die. It is up to us to make the most out of what falls in between. This can be challenging as there are so many things to fit into our day.
Most people wait for vacations to relax and destress, but that just isn’t enough! It is essential to add wellness to each and every day.
How, you may ask?
Well, I wish the answer was simple. But it isn’t. Each person has to find what works for them. Plus, as our responsibilities change, our needs change as well. So supporting mind-body wellness in your life will not look the same today as it did a year ago, five years ago, or even five years from now.
The key is to take one day at a time. Don’t wait until next month for your vacation or weekend to find some stress relief. If you don’t manage your stress now, it will turn into anxiety, which is a slippery slope toward depression and hopelessness. You should practice it daily.
Some of the most important things to add to your daily life are:
Healthy Work-life balance – Take breaks. If you work from home–choose specific hours to work and stick to them. Take time to talk with your coworkers and get to know them. Take days off when you are healthy to do something fun.
Daily Exercise or Movement – You don’t have to train for a marathon, but you can go for daily walks with a pet or on your own. Take a yoga or exercise class (We have many virtual options if you can’t find the time to get away). Stretch at the kitchen counter while you cook. Garden.
Quiet Reflection – Your brain needs time to reflect, so it can process and store your memories. Let yourself sit with the events of your day and think about them. If you spend 10-15 minutes daily doing this, you’ll fall asleep easier and wake up refreshed.
Water! Water! Water! – Dehydration causes stress. Try to drink between 75-100 ounces of water a day, depending on the amount of your activity. Your skin will be thankful for it as well!
Hourly screen breaks and movement – The blue light from devices can have multiple ill effects on the body, so give yourself frequent breaks. Look out the window and give your eyes a break. You can also add some movement with the screen break for even better results.
Healthy Diet – This one can be tough, but it is so important! Think of your body like a car. You won’t get the maximum performance out if you put cheap fuel in. It doesn’t have to be drastic. Perhaps switch carbohydrate snacks like pretzels and chips with nuts or fruit. Switch out soda, iced tea, and fruit juices with water. Once you get rolling, you’ll find yourself changing more and more as you feel the benefits.
All these things aren’t your responsibility alone. Your employer should be helping you lighten the load and giving you some of these things at work.
No, seriously, they should. Multiple studies have shown this!
Did you know that greater employee well-being is tied to higher company valuation and greater profits? Multiple studies have reflected that employers investing in their employees’ health boosts their profits.
Why? When an employer invests in their employee’s well-being, they are less likely to take days off, become ill, and need extended sick leave. They are more productive when working and create a community amongst their colleagues that boosts morale and improves communication and collaboration.
Airmid Wellness is here to help! We offer many wellness options for you as an individual and for businesses and groups.
Humans are social creatures, and we don’t like to feel alone. If you bring a culture of wellness to your business or group, your employees will feel more connected and eager to work together toward a common goal.
Not the boss? Tell your boss or HR department that you think wellness options should be made available to you and your coworkers. Here are a few stats from the Gallup poll to throw their way:
- 72% of employers saw reduced healthcare costs after implementing a wellness program.
- 87% of employees consider health and wellness offerings when choosing an employer.
- Wellness programs can reduce absenteeism by 14-19%.
- The average return on investment (ROI) for employee wellness programs is six-to-one.
- 56% of employees who participate in company wellness programs say they have fewer sick days due to these programs.
- Employees who don’t exercise regularly are 50% more likely to have high presenteeism than regular exercisers.
- 57% of workers with high health risks became low-risk after completing a work-provided exercise program.
- 84% of employers reported higher employee productivity and performance due to wellness plans in 2019.
Learn More about Airmid’s Wellness for Businesses & Groups Programs. Contact Jen Leary to set up your first Lunch & Learn or add a weekly, biweekly, or monthly mindful movement or meditation class at 215-293-0744 (Option 3) or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Beauty and passion are not love. Love is a choice. We can only love people if we unconditionally accept them, warts and all.
This can be a hard statement to swallow. I know, I have struggled with it since puberty.
Take a moment and evaluate why you love your significant other. Or what you want in a significant other if you are still searching for “the one.”
Go past the physical…go deeper.
Seriously, beauty changes. For example, when I was in high school, Kate Moss was the ideal of feminine beauty. Today, it’s Chloe Kardashian. These two women couldn’t be more different! Why should I hold myself or my partner up to these standards?
Ask yourself, what are the qualities you value in a partner?
Wait, don’t make it about fulfilling your needs. You are the only person that can complete you! (Ignore all those unrealistic Hollywood standards! You are smarter than that!)
In the past, I often jokingly said, “I would never divorce my husband because I trained him, so why would I let another woman benefit from my hard work?”
This thinking is insulting to my husband and myself. He isn’t a dog. I don’t need to improve him. I need to unconditionally accept him for who he is…no limitations, no standards—just acceptance.
Sounds easy, right? It’s not. But I put the effort in every single day.
William Shakespeare helped me with this. My favorite love poem is Sonnet 130. I’ll share it with you now. I added the emphasis.
My mistress’ eyes are nothing like the sun;
Coral is far more red than her lips’ red;
If snow be white, why then her breasts are dun;
If hairs be wires, black wires grow on her head.
I have seen roses damasked, red and white,
But no such roses see I in her cheeks;
And in some perfumes is there more delight
Than in the breath that from my mistress reeks.
I love to hear her speak, yet well I know
That music hath a far more pleasing sound;
I grant I never saw a goddess go;
My mistress, when she walks, treads on the ground.
And yet, by heaven, I think my love as rare
As any she belied with false compare.
Ok, once you get past the ol’ timey language and listen to what he is saying, the message is beautiful.
He loves her because she isn’t perfect. He loves her because of her flaws. He knows she’ll age, as beauty always does, and he doesn’t care…why?
Because love is unconditional. It always has been that way; we just forget in this modern world.
So finally, make that list of what you value in your partner and love unconditionally.
Learn More about Jen