The Mindful Path – Let Nature Heal You

 05/27/2024 | 03:49 PM 

By Marilyn Halpern, MSW, LSW ~

“Walk outdoors, stand there in silence, look up and contemplate how amazing life can be.” -Unknown

June is the Great Outdoors Month.  Many find the best place to heal and recharge is in nature. Yet, as time goes by Americans are spending less time outdoors. Now, it is estimated that the average person spends 90% of their time indoors or in their car. Yet when it comes to older adults, studies indicate we have a national crisis. Seniors spend up to 99% of their time indoors.  This is a catastrophic trend because spending time outdoors, especially in green spaces, is one of the fastest ways to improve your health and happiness.  

Dr. Susanne Preston, a Clinical Mental Health Counseling instructor at South University, Virginia Beach, reports being outside is good for a person’s mental and physical health. “Research has shown that spending time in nature has been associated with decreased levels of mental illness, with the strongest links to reduced symptoms of depression and anxiety, in addition to increased self-esteem. Spending time outdoors is also linked to positive effects on physical health, most notably by reducing obesity,” Preston says.

In 2005, author, Richard Louv, coined the term Nature-Deficit Disorder (NDD) to describe the phenomenon of spending more time indoors to the detriment of our physical and mental health. Studies show that NDD is reversible when people shift their priorities, habits, and lifestyle.

Planning to spend an hour outside a day is a great place to start in addressing our cultural Nature-Deficit Disorder trend.  The American Heart Association provides ten easy suggestions to get on the path of improved wellness.

  1. The present. There is no time like the present to make plans for the summer. June is a great month to create goals to purposely go outdoors more often. 
  2. Bon Appétit. Dine outdoors or plan a picnic. Simple changes like having your morning tea or coffee outside can make a huge difference in the quality of your day.
  3. Walk. The best and most accessible exercise is walking. Just 30 minutes every day can strengthen bones, reduce body fat, and improve cardiovascular fitness. 
  4. Visit parks. This summer set a goal to visit local, state and/or national parks. Another idea, check out the state’s beautiful botanic gardens.
  5. Advocate for healthy choices. Urge senior living facilities  to plan more outdoor activities. 
  6. Birdwatching. Approximately 46 million Americans are fans of this amazing pastime. 
  7. Garden. Traditional and container gardening offers lots of options for rewarding “soilful” time. 
  8. Outdoor concerts. Colorado offers many community-sponsored free concert events. Don’t forget to get those dates on your calendar to take advantage of the summer fun.
  9. Sports. Older adults are more active than ever. This summer is a great time to explore golf, pickleball, horseshoes, croquet, swimming, bocce ball, fishing or cycling. 
  10.  Photography. Grab your phone or camera and explore outdoor photography.

Resources:
Colorado Botanic Gardens: https://www.coloradoinfo.com/blog_post/11-public-botanical-gardens-to-explore-in-colorado/
Colorado State Parks: https://cpw.state.co.us/
National Park Service: https://www.nps.gov/articles/great-outdoors-month.htm

Marilyn Halpern is the founder and executive director of Aspen Care Services. This locally owned business provides medical power of attorney, care management and professional guardianship services in the Denver Metro area. For more information visit www.aspencareservices.com or www.aginglifecare.org. Image credit: Adrian Korpal

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