Thursday, January 3, 2013

Tapping Nature's Medicine

I'm a big fan of training outdoors, especially since I live in the tropical paradise of Hawaii. Yet nature has strong restorative benefits whether you live in the tropics or somewhere a bit colder, like Finland.

In an excellent article, John McKinney addresses the concept of Attention Restoration Theory (ART), which posits that a walk in the woods helps refocus the mind and revive the spirit, has been a growing field of research for the past 20 years. New studies are quantifying the restorative powers of nature and suggesting how the restorative process works.

Here's where the Finnish come in. A study by psychologist Kalevi Korpela with Finland’s University of Tampere found that
The self-rated restorative benefits gained by venturing into the woods and along natural shorelines — “an early-morning walk is a blessing for the whole day,” as Thoreau said — were judged as significantly stronger than ventures to other favorite places in the city, including developed parklands. The results revealed links between the need for restoration (relief from worries and stress about money, jobs and the hectic pace of modern life) and the use of favorite places — what the social scientists call “environmental self-regulation strategies” — to achieve restorative benefits.
Exposure to nature even helps sick people recover faster.
Nature’s value in the recovery from illness has been quantified repeatedly. Studies have shown that post-surgery patients resting in rooms overlooking trees recovered better and faster than those in rooms with a view only of a brick wall. Another study demonstrated that women with breast cancer who walked in a park, watched birds or tended gardens recovered more quickly and were in better spirits than those with little or no contact with the natural world.
McKinney's article ends with an apt quote from Thoreau: “We can never have enough of nature.”

You can read the complete article here.

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