Tuesday, May 10, 2011

There Will Never Be Another May 10, 2011

Feeling a tad philosophical today...I have been in deep thought since driving home from work. A fellow being interviewed on CBC radio paraphrased a quote by Henry David Thoreau: "the measure of a man (person) is not how much he has, but how much he can live without." I thought to myself - this is the perfect quote to describe how I want to live my life in three years time when I retire.  I am going to challenge myself to see how much I can live without.

I've been sitting in front of my computer for awhile reading up on Thoreau, about whom I have limited knowledge. He felt that the closer one lived to nature the more "spiritual" one's life became. I tend to agree with that also - perhaps that makes me a transcendentalist? I do know that being out in nature on a regular basis has been a life-saving practice for me. Does that seem like an exaggeration? Well, read on...

I've always known that going for a hike in the woods, or walking along a beach, weeding in my garden, biking down a country road or falling asleep in my hammock at the trailer while listening to the doves crooning makes me feel better - happier, relaxed, calm, peaceful, less stressed.

A week ago I heard another snippet of a CBC interview related to this topic which completely piqued my interest. I jotted down the name of the fellow being interviewed (Psycholigist Marc Berman) and later looked him up on the internet. It seems that the theory that spending time in natural surroundings can be calming is no longer a theory - it is a proven fact.  

It has been proven that living in an urban environment takes a toll on our brains:
"Just being in an urban environment, they have found, impairs our basic mental processes. After spending a few minutes on a crowded city street, the brain is less able to hold things in memory, and suffers from reduced self-control."
If you'd like to read the whole article - How the City Hurts Your Brain - The Boston Globe 
 In the city our minds are alway being vigilant - there are so many things to pay attention to - distractions, dangers, noise, smells, cars - it's a continual assault on our prefrontal cortex. This tires our brain and we can no longer focus very well. This part of our brain also controls our ability to resist temptations (our ability to control our impulses) so when our brains are zapped we are far more likely to make purchases that we don't need and eat food that isn't good for us (drink alcohol, consume drugs, smoke) which can lead to addiction, over-spending and being overweight.
 This explains why, at the end of a school day during which I've been on high alert with all my spidey senses tingling, I am utterly exhausted and want to eat everything in sight! 

Is there a cure? Yes there is. It's very simple. Give yourself a frequent nature break and if you can't get outside to a park then look at nature photography like the ones I've included in this post. Simply looking at photos is beneficial.

It's been proven that patients in hospital who can see trees and the sky from their windows recover quicker than patients who can only see a brick wall. Amazing no? There have been all kinds of studies done and they all show a huge positive impact from accessing nature. 

Being able to get away on weekends to my trailer helped me get through the breakdown of my marriage. Hiking and biking out in the country has also been therapeutic and my habit of recording these treks with my camera means I can relive those experiences over and over again.

Thank goodness for trees and flowers and soft billowy clouds - without them I'd probably weigh twice what I do now, I'd still smoke and I'd be drinking a bottle of red everyday after school!! 

I have found several you tube nature videos that I am going to look at on my lunch, or I'll go outside for a walk, sit under a tree and listen to the birds. I'll see if that helps me be more focussed in the afternoon and if it helps curb my appetite once the school bell goes at 2:10pm. I already know it works - it just needs to be part of EVERY day.


  1. Interesting, I've always found nature good for my mental state but to think it really can help everyone, something to ponder.

  2. What a great post!! I agree! I absolutely LOVE being outdoors & enjoying all of the beauty around me! I try to get my girls out daily too... It's soo good for mind, body, & spirit!

  3. All true!

    Being in tune with nature is beneficial in so many ways. Even just a walk through a city park is better than nothing.
    Sometimes Martin 'forces' me to go outside with him and enjoy the fresh air (at times when I'm in retreat from the world and don't want to go out at all), and the end result is always the same: I feel much better afterwards.
    Soon, you'll be moving where it's nature all the time!

  4. Jane, on Mother's Day I snagged the dog and went for an hour long hike through the woods. I left feeling 100 times better than when I started. I heard the same discussion on CBC last week!

  5. No wonder I love my hikes. They have been life saving for me too. Sitting in front of a computer for 6 or 7 hours a day is not good. Right now I'm only doing that 2 days a week but soon enough I'll be back to working 5 days a week. I hate the thought of spending so much time in front of the computer instead of out in the woods.

  6. Interesting post Jane.
    I'm the absolute opposite of this. I live in the countryside and yet feel calm and at peace when I'm in the city!!

  7. Thank you. But do I have to pay for this therapy session?
    Your Friend, m.
    Now "go take a hike"!

  8. We moved to the country and I feel more at peace now because I can look out and see the landscape. I like gardening and doing other things outdoors that put me in touch with nature.

  9. A nature getaway sounds so wonderful! And I love the picture of the clouds, it made me feel better.
    Thank you so much for sharing!

  10. Jane I love the simplicity of these thoughts.
    Now that I am no longer going to be starting work at 6am I intend to make lovely morning walks part of my everyday life.
    Hoping this keeps the stress levels down.

  11. Ahhh Great post! I agree 100%!!

    You're so lucky to have an escape (your trailer). Maybe one day soon I'll have one too...

  12. ahh, I love reading thoreau! and getting back to nature is the best cure-all I can think of!
    (check out Spartan Students blog, it's a great read)

  13. I spent my college years in a small forest town. On weekends we went hiking and rock climbing and camping, and creek walking. It was heaven!

    Now that I've settled into a busy life in a hot urban town, it's gotten harder and harder to get that big dose of nature that I often crave. But I'm working on changing that.

    I like the idea of nature photographs. Hmm. May need to add some to my decor.


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