Canadian doctors got the attention of their peers and the public back in 2020, when they dared to ‘prescribe’ time in communion with nature as a means of building well being in all dimensions – mind, body and soul. Now researchers in the U.S. have taken that idea further…
Get out into nature, dodge a few cow patties, and listen to ‘the breath of God’…
Sound mind, sound body
It’s all well and good to follow the Mediterranean Diet, exercise, and do all the other things doctors currently ‘prescribe’ to build and maintain your physical and emotional health. But if you worry about Calories too much, exercise inside and follow the other rules and recommendations too meticulously, you may be counteracting the good they do.
The truth, some MDs insist, is that you have to tie all the dimensions of well being together with an underlying cord: You need to feel one with nature; with the world; with the cosmos.
If that sounds a little New-Age-flaky to you, and you wince at the thought of pyramids, crystals and meditation, fear not. All you have to do, researchers at Drexel University say, is to spend some time communing with nature.
What they did
Pretty simple, really. The team surveyed 300 subjects selected to mirror the overall population of Philadelphia, to see what they ate and measure their connection to nature.
What they found
“Nature relatedness has been associated with better cognitive, psychological and physical health, and greater levels of environmental stewardship. Our findings extend this list of benefits to include dietary intake,” said Dr. Brandy-Joe Milliron, lead author of the publication. “We found people with higher nature relatedness were more likely to report healthful dietary intake, including greater dietary variety and higher fruit and vegetable consumption.”
“This work can impact health promotion practices in two ways,” said Milliron. “First, nature-based health promotion interventions may increase nature relatedness across the lifespan and potentially improve dietary intake. And second, augmenting dietary interventions with nature-based activities may lead to greater improvements in dietary quality.”
Future research, she noted, should be wider in scope.
Team member Dane Ward suggested, “Future research should explore the ways different communities experience and value nature. It needs to include how the intersections of environment, culture, race, history (including connection to land), social cohesion and other social and economic factors influence community identity relative to nature relatedness and dietary intake.”
I can vividly recall the times (too few and fleeting) in my early childhood that my mother and I walked the dusty side roads near our summer lodgings at The Farm, searching for wild raspberries, strawberries and blueberries. The task at hand demanded a tight focus on the surroundings. Mom pointed out birds, bugs and plants she thought I should know about – and why I should appreciate them.
I remember sitting on the end of the dock down at the river where the old wooden rowboat was tied up. Dad and I would lean over so that we could peer through our shadows on the water and see all the way to the bottom. That’s how I learned which fish were which and fell in love with the way they seemed to ‘fly’ through their realm.
I remember running through the pastures, dodging cow patties, my high-top sneakers crunching in the dry grass, and stopping at the top of The Hill to gaze at the sugar bush below, the river beyond it, and the impenetrable wall of cedars beyond that. I made me feel small, but, at the same time, a part of it.
I remember tramping out to the back field every morning with my much-older cousin Wayne, and ‘inspsecting the corn’. “See how much it grew since yesterday?” Wayne would say. ” al that from one little seed and a peck of dirt…” It was like magic.
I remember my granddad pointing to the big old maple and chestnut trees, swaying and dancing in the wind, and saying, “That’s the breath of God…”
It all ties in…
Harkening back to recent posts speculating on human ‘nutritional wisdom’ and the notion that food cravings are really hard-wired ‘gut feelings’, I can see how it all comes together.
I’ve said it before, and I’ll reiterate, because I think it can’t be said to much: When you’re out in nature, you’re almost always exercising in some way, even if only walking. And you don’t even notice it. Have you ever heard someone say – or noted in yourself – how hungry you feel after a day in the fresh air? And how much better the food tastes after such a day in nature? I have also noted, more than once, that I need to eat less to feel satisfied.
Living in the city as I do now, I don’t get out into nature as much as I used to. But when I do, I walk for at least an hour, along nature trails and through parks where I can be close to the greenery, and the earthy smells, and the glimpses of my fellow creatures of the woods, that mean ‘life’. And, of course, to listen for the all-encompassing whisper of ‘the breath of God’ that seems to make all one.
Muse on that…
~ Maggie J.