Mind/Body Upper: 30 Minutes in a Park!

Dogs“People who visit parks for 30 minutes or more each week are much less likely to have high blood pressure or poor mental health than those who don’t, according to new research by Australian and UK environmental scientists….parks offered health benefits including reduced risks of developing heart disease, stress, anxiety and depression. ‘If everyone visited their local parks for half an hour each week there would be seven per cent fewer cases of depression and nine percent fewer cases of high blood pressure’.”

Picture worth 1000 words? Look at them, those happy, healthy, shiny dogs. Who wouldn’t like to be feeling that good, doing such good work, teamwork, and having that much fun? They love nature and so do we, whether we know it or not. Why is that? Why do humans, in general, love landscapes as much as we do? Some say it’s because landscapes remind us deeply of the lush habitat of the savanna – the favorable environment in which the biggest part of our evolutionary brain development is said to have taken place. And, even if it’s not exactly news that green is good, the specificity of this particular recommendation, the 30 minutes per week, just 30 minutes, really is…great news.

And what perfect timing too! You can become a Parkie in celebration of the National Park Service’s 100th birthday, coming up August 25, 2016. Right after the passing of my 91-year-old mom in February of this year, pretty much on impulse I went to Zion National Park, where I could actually see and feel the sun. Mom always loved big, yellow happy faces, always had one hanging on her front door. I hadn’t anticipated how close to her I would feel as I breathed in the fresh air and gazed up at the gigantic, gorgeous sun. Somehow I knew without exactly knowing that I needed to be in a park with a great big sun. Same as when I downsized from Cambridge, MA to DC. In retrospect, I can see that it mattered less how small the space might be as long as there would be green. Green is not an easy requirement to meet in DC but there it is right outside my windows in the only property I would even consider. Again, without exactly knowing I knew how important it would be for me to see green.

Wait, you may say, what if you have other plans/responsibilities and can’t exactly get yourself to a national park. And, what if you don’t happen to have green outside your window, nor even a park nearby. Even if you did have a park nearby, first you’d have to get to the park and then you’d have to get home, and that all takes time. Who has that kind of time? You do, we all do because if we can’t get to the park, well then we can just bring the park to us. Plants. Yes, plants help us de-stress, and the Huffington Post even tells us exactly which plants to get.

But maybe you travel or don’t have the right exposure for plants. Ok then, did you know that “Fireplace For Your Home” offers gorgeous greenery with a running brook, sound and all, which can be accessed on YouTube and Netflix. The funny thing about the brain is that, as smart as it is, it can’t always tell the difference between what’s real or imagined. So, for example, when Harvard psychology professor, Ellen Langer, told hotel maids that their work was physical exercise their health measures improved, relative to health measures of the hotel maids who thought they were just cleaning rooms. There were similar health benefits for seniors whom Langer instructed to imagine, and live for a period of time as if they had gone back in time and were much younger again.

So, if you can’t get to a park, you can just use your imagination. You can bring to mind a time and place of green. You may even want to make it part of a meditation. Breathing in through the nose, out through the nose, each time the mind wanders bringing the mind back to your beautiful green. Practice, practice, practice, and see what happens.

To work on this or something else, would love to hear from you:

Email:  Madelaine Weiss

* “Dose of nature is just what the doctor ordered” June 23, 2016 http://medicalxpress.com/news/2016-06-dose-nature-doctor.html

**Examples and illustrations are fictional composites inspired by but not depicting nor referring to any actual specific person in my practice or life experience.

Copyright © 2017. Madelaine Claire Weiss. All rights reserved.


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