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Nature: It’s What Your Brain Needs

Posted Apr 18 2013 2:00pm

“A morning-glory at my window satisfies me more than the metaphysics of books.” –Walt Whitman

Is life coming at you fast? Daily we’re faced with an onslaught of decisions, information to sort through, multitasking and constantly beating off the beast of overload. This can take toll on your energy levels, leaving you drained, unable to focus and at times forgetful. Not only is this true for adults but also for children. We are seeing this problem on the rise with more and more children and mistakenly being diagnosed with disorders such as ADD and depression.

Do you know how much stress you’re carrying? If you carry a lot of responsibility –for yourself, your family, your business; if you’re the one that people turn to, to make things happen chances are you’re more stressed than you realize.

I’m conscious about the way I live and I put forth daily effort to balance my work loads and lead a slower paced life. I eat healthy, stay active, have a positive mental attitude, live in the country and have reduced the normal day to day stimuli dramatically. However, when I went to the beach last fall and stood by the ocean I could literally feel the weight of stress leave my body as the gentle waves of sea water freed me of my stress. I didn’t think I was stressed before, but a visit to the beach made me realize just how much I had been holding onto when suddenly I my load was lightened.

I later reflected on this in my journal and noted to myself – If I’m carrying stress, how much stress do my children have to deal absorb? Children need this replenishment a trip to nature provides just as much as we do. Even though they’re in a natural learning environment with their home education there’s no such thing as a “perfect family” and certain amounts of stress can build up for them also.

The brain is our control center. If we take care of the brain we will see improvement in all areas of our health and our life. Let’s de-stress and give our brain the nourishment it needs for whole body wellness and wellbeing.

There are many things you can do for the brain, but today I’m focusing on one particular practice that is the ultimate natural food for the brain and that’s nature itself.

Getting out into nature on a daily basis is the easiest and most effective way to replenishing the brain. You know how good it feels to listen to the sound of the waves of the ocean washing onto the beach, Bluebirds, Cardinals and Chickadees chirping and singing delightfully, or the gentle flow of a babbling brook, the breeze blowing through the trees, and all the peacefulness of a forest rather than a busy noisy city street or crowded store. After a long cloudy, cold winter there’s nothing more refreshing than getting out into the sunshine and feeling the warmth of its rays shining down on your skin.

Click to Tweet:  “Get out into nature on a daily basis.It’s the easiest and most effective way to replenishing the brain.” -Donna Vail via @DrMommy

We’re wired for survival so your brain is always on alert and ready to react to protect you from immediate danger. As you walk down a busy street it’s common to encounter distracting noises including threatening kind like yelling, screaming, cars rushing by, jet planes, construction sounds, cars honking or backfiring sirens from emergency vehicles. This list of stress producing sounds is potentially endless. However, when you go for a walk in nature there is plenty to see and be curious about like the relaxing sounds in the preceding paragraph. When you’re in nature your brain is still working but doesn’t take as much cognitive effort and it’s able to relax, even restore.

“Forget not that the earth delights to feel your bare feet and the winds long to play with your hair.” –Khalil Gibran

Being conscious of the restorative benefits nature provides. You will want to make it a regular practice to get out every day. Refer to the Inspired Actions for ways you can bring nature into your everyday.

My favorite book about the importance of nature for children is Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder by  Richard Louv . If you have children this is a must read. In the process of sharing nature with your children you’re going to be restored as well. Here’s an excerpt from his book:

“Nature-deficit disorder describes the human costs of alienation from nature, among them: diminished use of the senses, attention difficulties and higher rates of physical and emotional illness.  The disorder can be detected in individuals, families, and communities. Nature deficit can even change human behavior in cities, which could ultimately affect their design, since long-standing studies show a relationship between the absence, or inaccessibility, of parks and open space with high crime rates, depression, and other urban maladies. “


What are your favorite nature activities? Where do you go to explore nature studies? Please share by leaving a comment below.

Parents Inspired to Action:

  • Step outside first in the morning. Walk on the grass barefooted and connect with the Earth. Breathe in the fresh air and lift your face to the sun. This is the best energizer for your morning.
  • Schedule time to go walking and you will not only will you be restoring your brain but it’s also good for the body. This is a great time to let the kids run around and use some of their unending energy.
  • If you live in the city seek to go to local parks, nature museums, nature trails and choose areas to shop where there are more trees and grassy areas.
  • Create an area on your porch or back yard where the family can sit outside and enjoy meals together.

Children Inspired to Action: 

  • Be sure your children step out into nature daily. Go walking with them even if nature is not at your doorstep. You don’t need a prepared curriculum but let exploration and discovery be your guide. Pause enough along the way to notice ladybugs, lizards, birds and all that your path reveals to you. Let them make collections of their finds like leaves, pine cones, rocks, feathers, etc.
  • Purchase a sketch journal, pencils and colored pencils to keep a nature journal, drawing and writing what you’ve discovered. This will grow to be a treasure.

“And this, our life, exempt from public haunt, finds tongues in trees, books in the running brooks, sermons in stones, and good in everything.” –William Shakespeare

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