This past winter there were many days that I didn’t leave the house. Indiana’s polar vortex was one I will never forget. As much as I loathed the cold snow and shoveling, I believe the days I physically moved the snow my depression was much lighter. Being out in nature, aside from the physical exercise, soothed a part of me.
Hippocrates was right when he said, “Nature itself is the best medicine.”
In the early 80’s, a researcher in Paoli, Pennsylvania collected information about patients who had undergone gallbladder surgery over a 9 year period. The research looked at the difference in patients’ recoveries based on the difference of one patient’s hospital bed facing a brick wall and another facing a group of trees. Apart from their differing views, the rooms were identical. The results were not surprising. On average, those who faced the brick wall needed an extra day to recover before returning home. They were far more depressed and experienced more pain. Meanwhile, very few of the patients who looked out onto the trees required more than a single dose of strong painkillers during the middle part of their stay, whereas those facing the wall required two or even three doses.
It’s amazing what being out in nature does for people. My brother says that being outside among the trees he’s planted are his church. I love that comment!
Studies repeatedly have shown that hanging out in nature can lower blood pressure, reduce anxiety, relieve stress, sharpen mental states and, even help those suffering from ADHD disorders, depression, addictions, insomnia, stress and more. Nature tends to bring out the best in each of us. It soothes, heals, restores, even connects us.
Right now we are enjoying fall in Indiana. The leaves are amazingly beautiful as they turn from green to a beautiful burnt orange color. This past weekend, I enjoyed a long hike at a local park.
There are hundreds of other studies outlining the benefits of spending time outdoors. What is important to note though from these studies is the overall consensus is… spend time outdoors, with others, everyday. This will provide a well-needed restorative experience your body craves to be in balance. And, isn’t that what a family beach vacation does? Soak up the grass, flowers, sun, waves, mountains, trees, rocks, streams…let them balance you and reconnect with the true you, which is complete self-love!