Written by Olive Dempsey, Sustainability Consultant and Cathryn Smith, Program Leader, Workplace Health

A growing body of research shows spending time in nature can benefit our health and wellness. On Earth Day, we encourage you to find the medicine right outside your door.

When describing his relationship with the natural world, the 19th century philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote, “There I feel that nothing can befall me in life — no disgrace, no calamity …which nature cannot repair.

Sound like a bold claim? Well, science now shows us that Emerson was on the right track.

According Dr. Dacher Keltner at the University of California, Berkeley, a growing body of research demonstrates how nature benefits our health, well-being and relationships.

With Earth Day on April 22, GreenCare and Fraser Health Health and Wellness teams encourage you to find the medicine right outside your door.

Over 100 studies have shown how time in nature or even viewing nature images can calm the nervous system and cultivate feelings of openness, connection, generosity and resilience. In one study, Dr. Catherine Thompson Ward found that those who live near green space reported less stress and showed greater decline in cortisol over the course of the day. Even viewing a one minute of nature video can lead to feelings of awe that can reduce the release of inflammatory cytokines, which have been associated with disorders such as type-2 diabetes, heart disease, arthritis, Alzheimer’s, and clinical depression.

Unfortunately, in recent decades we’ve seen a rise in “nature deficit disorder,” as more and more North Americans spend less time outdoors. Watch Dr James Hamblin explore the health benefits of being outside.

Ready to build your deeper connection with nature? Here are a few ideas:

  • Travel in a way that brings you closer to nature. Walk, ride your bike, explore a forest trail, or canoe/kayak on your favourite waterway.
  • Take note of changes in the season. Notice the amount of day light, the color of the leaves, the activity of local animals. These felt like big changes to our ancestors.
  • Give nature a home. Place a bird feeder in your garden or balcony, plant wild flowers to help the bees. Getting close to wild creatures will make you feel connected to the natural world.
  • Grow your own herbs or vegetables. Follow the process of growth from a seed into a plant and harvest it when it’s ready. You’ll learn the art of patience and get to taste real food you nurtured yourself.
  • Find your groceries in outdoor farmers markets. Many are just starting up again for the season! http://markets.bcfarmersmarket.org/
  • Take a nature challenge and invite others to join youhttp://30x30.davidsuzuki.org/
  • Use your senses. In a primitive world our survival depended heavily on our senses. Nowadays, we rarely need to use them to their full extent. Touch the bark of a tree, pick the pine nuts in a pinecone, listen to the birds sing, feel and disassemble a leaf or smell freshly broken pine needles.
  • Watch sunset or sunrise. Watching the sun go down or rise every other day is also an excellent way to get in touch with the rhythm of the day and the season. And in the autumn and winter months, it doesn’t mean getting up early.

Want to learn more about how you can help create a healthy planet and bring your green values to work? The Green+Leaders program offers training, toolkits and a community of like-minded colleagues. Contact Olive Dempsey to learn more.


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