We’ve evolved in nature, amongst trees, rivers, meadows, beaches, and other trappings of wilderness. Our genes love green space, it’s where they developed and where they are given a chance to be expressed optimally.
Spending brief periods of time in one of the many leafy parks we have on our doorstep, on a hill walking trail in the mountains or at a wild beach helps:
- Relaxation, reducing stress and anxiety. A study has shown the number of stress related health complaints can be significantly moderated by ensuring you are surrounded by green space within a 3-km radius.
- Improve the way our bodies deal with sugar by moderating the insulin response thereby improving glucose tolerance. This assists in weight management, reducing fat storage and reducing the risk of type 2 diabetes. Even more effective when combined with a low sugar and low carbohydrate diet.
- Boost anti-cancer activity.
- Improve longevity, especially in women.
Interestingly, even looking at pictures (like a screensaver) of nature scenes or smelling the organic compounds that trees give off can trigger physiological effects similar to the real thing.
What else can you do?
- Have lots of houseplants
- Get out into the garden, even when it’s raining
- Go for walks along tree lined streets
Our favourite family weekend last summer was spent camping on the coast in County Wicklow. The sun was out, we were in a large green field surrounded by trees and looking out over the Irish sea. The batteries on all the devices had run flat, so there were no screens to intrude. We were relaxed, the children were relaxed as we enjoyed and felt the benefits of a few days in nature.
This winter we have been wrapping up and having a run about in Deer Park here in Mount Merrion. Not just in the fields but amongst the trees and bushes in the forested areas playing hide and seek. Good fun and the children are always more settled, eat and sleep better afterwards.
For more on this topic, I’d recommend reading this excellent blog by Mark Sisson.
- Hartig, T., Mang, M., & Evans, G. W. (1991). Restorative effects of natural environment experiences. Environment and behavior, 23(1), 3-26.
- Berto, R. (2014). The role of nature in coping with psycho-physiological stress: a literature review on restorativeness. Behavioral sciences, 4(4), 394-409.
- Richardson, E. A., & Mitchell, R. (2010). Gender differences in relationships between urban green space and health in the United Kingdom. Social science & medicine, 71(3), 568-575.
- Van den Berg, A. E., Maas, J., Verheij, R. A., & Groenewegen, P. P. (2010). Green space as a buffer between stressful life events and health. Social science & medicine, 70(8), 1203-1210.
- Elhayany, A., Lustman, A., Abel, R., Attal‐Singer, J., & Vinker, S. (2010). A low carbohydrate Mediterranean diet improves cardiovascular risk factors and diabetes control among overweight patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus: a 1‐year prospective randomized intervention study. Diabetes, Obesity and Metabolism, 12(3), 204-209.