Enjoying Nature Makes a Difference

Coconut Telegraph

SRQ DAILY FRESHLY SQUEEZED CONTENT EVERY MORNING THURSDAY MAY 28, 2020

Research suggests that spending time in nature can promote our brain health and fight brain illness as we reduce our stress and anxiety and lighten our mood. We are lucky — living in Florida we have a wide variety of opportunities for getting outdoors. Unfortunately, the safer-at home restrictions closed many of our favorite places.

With the phased reopening of the state, many of our favorite outdoor activities can once again be enjoyed. The beaches are open, Selby Gardens opened to the public on May 26, and Florida’s State Parks are open for day use. But why do we feel better when we can get outside and enjoy nature?

Researchers studying ecotherapy, nature-based programs that address brain and physical health, have been able to link experiencing and enjoying nature with boosting brain health and performance. For example, data demonstrates that ecotherapy increases creativity, energy, immunity, and productivity and it also reduces experience of brain health risk factors like stress, and decreases symptoms of brain illnesses, such as anxiety and depression.

In a recent article from Harvard Health Publishing, Jason Strauss, MD, director of geriatric psychiatry at Harvard-affiliated Cambridge Health Alliance, said that when we are depressed or stressed, we can get into a cycle of negativity. Nature can have a calming effect on those negative thoughts. Being in nature can actually lower your blood pressure and reduce your levels of cortisol, the stress hormone that erodes brain health and makes us vulnerable to brain illness.

WHAT YOU CAN DO TODAY TO PROTECT YOUR BRAIN HEALTH

It’s easy to add nature into your lifestyle. Look for something that you enjoy and immerse yourself in nature for 20 or 30 minutes.

Take a walk. The Suncoast has dozens of nature trails. Find one close by and take a walk while listening and breathing in what is around you.

Go to the beach. Florida’s beaches were made for walking. Splash in the waves, look for shells, and breathe in the salt air.

Go bird watching. The Sarasota Audubon Society Celery Fields are an ideal place for watching birds and wildlife.

Stop and smell the roses. The Suncoast’s public gardens are re-opening to the public and they provide a beautiful place and to enjoy nature.  

It’s not the setting that matters. The key is finding a place that you enjoy and letting the natural environment surround you, lightening mood, and bringing you a sense of calm.

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