Thursday, December 6, 2012

12/12 Creation Corner, Nature: What's It Good For?

Creation Corner Column for December 2012

Nature: What’s It Good For?

“God saw all that he had made, and it was very good.”  Genesis 1:31

The science of wellness is showing us what we know intuitively: that getting “outdoors”, taking the first step outside, is good for us.  This awareness of nature’s importance to human health is the subject of Your Brain on Nature: The Science of Nature’s Influence on Your Health, Happiness, and Vitality, by Eva M. Selhub, MD and Alan C. Logan, ND (Wiley, paperback, 2012).

Many of us experience much time “indoors”, our being “digitally distracted” by looking at one screen or another (computers, televisions, checking e-mail, cell phone text messages, using smart phones, tablets, Kindles, I-pads, playing indoor video games, etc.).  This can become an overload of streams of technological data, and increasingly too many of us experience mood disorders (stress, anxiety, depression, attention-distractions, hyper-activity), inertia, addictions, immune and sleep issues, cognitive deficiency, creativity lapses, “brain fade” and “senior moments”, etc.  A malaise seems to accompany our life in urban civilization.

Such “videophilia” leads to people becoming “denatured”, removed from nature and withdrawn into an inside world.  It is nature deprivation.  Richard Louv has spoken of this in his work as “nature-deficit disorder”.  Some warn that nature-withdrawal can lead to a “less empathic view of nature”, and that one cannot be “green” without a meaningful exposure to nature.  Videophilia competes with “biophilia”, the latter, as hypothesized by Edward O. Wilson, being an inherently human preference, emotional affiliation and contact with nature.

Many studies illustrate the benefits of immersing our five human senses in nature.  This is variously called nature exposure, eco-therapy, forest-walk therapy, light-therapy, nature-based recreation, the slow-nature movement---all representing the healing power of nature.

Some of the “nature cures”, footnoted at , that improve our mind and body, include lower blood pressure and heart rate; feeling more relaxed; enhanced attention, memory and creativity; more positive thoughts and less hostility; boosts to white and red blood cell counts; a decrease in blood cholesterol, improved production of some immune functions; less mental fatigue (“fog”); an improved sleep-wake cycle; vitamin D and calcium absorption; improved performance on cognitive tests; less impatience and irritability, etc.

This all makes sense biblically.  We were created in a natural environment, and we physiologically adapted to it.  Unless we have lost our way, our everyday rhythms are attuned to those of the environment.

So a prescription for what ails some of us can be as small as stepping outside our door for a five-minute “dosage” of activity.  Park the car far from the store entrance.  Visit a park. Walk under trees.  Seek a quiet, natural place, preferably near water.  If you vacation, go to a natural area, not a city.  Do gardening.  Lie on the grass.  Sit near a window and watch the clouds.  It’s free medicine!  Walking-therapy!!  Nature nurtures us!!!  God’s creation is indeed very good for us.

Note: My interest in this subject stemmed from an article in Outside Magazine by Florence Williams  in the December 2012 issue, “The Nature Cure: Take Two Hours of Pine Forest and Call Me in the Morning”  (