Countdown to Earth Day 2018: Nature Rx — Give Yourself A Dose!

Countdown to Earth Day 2018: Nature Rx — Give Yourself A Dose!

  • This article, contributed by Trish Beckjord of The Conservation Foundation, is part of a 15-part series of tips on how to make a positive environmental impact in Kane County  in preparation for Earth Day on April 22. 

Tip #2: Nature as a Remedy

I have a kitchen window over my sink that looks out over my patio and back garden.

Yesterday, there were seven red-winged blackbirds at the feeders, along with a few robins, a cardinal pair, a chickadee couple (I do hope they set up housekeeping in the new birdhouse I put up!), numerous goldfinches, house finches, juncos, and mourning doves.

I’ve also seen pine siskins (a new bird for me!), a downy woodpecker (no sign of the hairy this year), a red-bellied woodpecker, and a single white-throated sparrow for just a day … And of course too many starlings that seem to know just when I go out and fill the feeders!

It’s fun to watch the red-winged blackbirds give them a run for their money! Occasionally, when they all fly, I find a red-tailed hawk perched in the tall silver maple next door.

Every time I look out the window it makes me smile, whether it be watching the antics of the birds or seeing something flowering in the garden (The Prairie Smoke is about to pop!).

I think this is due in large part to the now well-documented benefits of being in nature. Even just standing at the kitchen window looking at the garden, I can feel myself somehow take an unconscious deep breath and relax a bit before getting back to work.

You can easily see how time in nature relaxes children as they concentrate their attention on new things.

The physical, emotional and even spiritual benefits of being in nature are now well documented. Dr. Eva Selhub and Alan Logan in their book, Your Brain on Nature, tell us our emotions are more positive in natural environments and that we experience increased physical and mental energy even just viewing nature.

I seem to be walking proof. Do you find it so too?

Even as far back as 2008, studies showed that a 20-minute walk in the park was more effective at improving attention in ADHD–diagnosed children than a walk in a residential neighborhood or downtown area.

In fact, the authors of the study, Andrea Faber Taylor and Frances Kuo, found that time in nature seemed to have the same or larger effect as taking medication.

So there is an ever-growing body of evidence that time in nature benefits all aspects of our health. The American Society of Landscape Architects has assembled hundreds of studies, news articles and reports on its website that support this.

The ASLA library is worth some exploration. You will read that:

Even a 20-minute walk can be beneficial.

  • Even short times in nature reduces depression. With a 400 percent increase or more in the prescription of anti-depressants, it seems a walk in the woods could be as effective or more than a pill.
  • Dementia and Alzheimer’s patients show decreased symptoms as a result of spending time in gardens or horticultural therapy
  • Children with autism benefit from time in nature by an increased attention span and improved behavioral temperament.
  • In general, giving children free play time in natural environments has many positive benefits including greater creativity, better attention spans and more confidence in themselves.

I’m remembering my play time in the woodlot near my house with a bit of nostalgia here ….

These kids are loving this and getting a lot of benefits from nature-based play!

Susan Bales wrote for the Children and Nature Network that, “…the fundamental lesson remains true: the dominant narrative in which you are raised follows you through life. It is very hard to break out of it and see the world new. That challenge lies at the core of learning to be in the world…”

Oh, how true this is.

It seems to me it is critically important that we find ways to take advantage of the many benefits that being in nature can bring and ingrain a love of it in our children — for their own benefit long term!

If you can’t get out in wild nature at a nearby park or forest preserve, spending time in your garden is still an effective place to be. I have been nurturing a bit of nature right in my own yard by adding native plants and shrubs to create a garden that supports life.

I’m looking forward to being out there smelling the greening earth, hearing the chatter of the finches as the garden warms up and just soaking up all the benefits nature offers. My winter-weary mind and body need a good dose!

So, follow your own Nature Rx prescription and reduce your stress load! Plan to get out there soon and make it a habit!

Nurture your own bit of nature in your own back yard!

Author’s Note: The Conservation Foundation is recognizing the benefits of nature and their connection to the organization’s mission through a new The Conservation Foundation Initiative called Nature Rx. I thank them for permitting me to use their initiative title for this post.

For more inspiration on how Nature is good for our minds, body, and souls, check out:

Read the ‘Countdown to Earth Day’ Series!