Daily dose of nature brings happiness

Do you want to be happier, healthier, and smarter? I have just the prescription for you: add a daily dose of nature to your routine.

Do you want to be happier, healthier, and smarter? I have just the prescription for you: add a daily dose of nature to your routine.

Over the past decade, researchers from fields as diverse as biology, psychiatry, engineering, horticulture, neuroscience, and medicine have realized what most of us know intuitively: nature is good for our health and wellbeing. These experts have discovered countless links between time spent outdoors and cognitive, physical, and emotional development.

Studies show that enjoying a natural setting – like a park, beach, wetland, or forest — can reduce blood pressure, anxiety, and stress levels. Exposure to nature can help you sleep well and increase vigour and liveliness. It can even boost your immune system.

In their new book Your Brain on Nature, naturopath Alan Logan and Harvard physician Eva Selhub cite dozens of studies that demonstrate the health benefits of the natural world. They even refer to outdoor physical activity as “exercise squared” because it can increase energy and fitness levels while reducing fatigue, depression, and obesity.

Melissa Lem, a family doctor and member of the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment, says exposure to nature is vitally important for kids. She suggests that time spent with flora and fauna is essential for healthy psychological and physical development in children. In a recent Docs Talk column she points to studies that show daily doses of “green time” can be used to prevent and treat conditions like attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, hypertension, and diabetes. Ailments like myopia, asthma, and depression have also been linked to inadequate nature exposure.

While this scientific body of evidence is fascinating and growing quickly, most of us remain unaware of the full range of health benefits that nature provides. And with more than 80 per cent of Canadians now living in urban settings, many of us lack a meaningful, regular connection with the natural environment that sustains us. Getting in touch with the outdoors has another great benefit: those who know and love nature work harder to protect it.

This is why the David Suzuki Foundation is about to launch its first ever 30×30 Challenge. Starting June 1, we’re inviting Canadians to spend at least 30 minutes in nature each day for 30 days. By encouraging people to get a regular dose of fresh air we hope to help participants take advantage of the many health benefits nature has to offer. They might even make it part of their continuing daily practice.

With the busy lives that many of us lead, taking time to get outside may seem difficult. But it’s easier than you think. Green space is as close as your local park or backyard garden. Trails, ravines, and community gardens are often a short distance from the daily grind. And birds, bees, and other critters are usually nearby; you just have to take time to slow down, breathe, watch, and listen.

Are you curious about how you can get your daily dose of nature? Ditch the indoor gym and go for a run or walk in a park or on a trail instead. Use your lunch break to get out of the office and visit a nearby green space. Find a nice leafy tree and read a book in the shade. Brush off your green thumb and spruce up your garden. And on June 15, make plans to get outside with your favourite little ones on Nature Play Day in Canada.

For the young at heart, a British organization called the National Trust has put together a fun list of 50 activities all children should do before they are 11¾ years old.

While playing conkers (a game involving chestnuts on strings) might not be among the top 50 Canadian pastimes, the list includes cool activities that are worthwhile for any age. The joys of rolling down a big hill, eating an apple picked fresh from a tree, and hunting for bugs are truly timeless.

Join the 30×30 Challenge beginning on Friday and incorporate small natural diversions into your daily routine for a month. Add some green to your commute, lunch break, workout schedule, or playtime. And remember, a daily dose of nature is good for your head, heart, and health.

Scientist, author and broadcaster David Suzuki wrote this column with Jode Roberts. Learn more at www.davidsuzuki.org.

Just Posted

Red Deer city council gets the ball rolling on new fees for tax assessment summaries

Changes to provincial legislation has spurred a rise in requests

Red Deer students take part in annual race

Dawe/St. Pat’s Run reaches 40th anniversary

Red Deer County backs Canadian Finals Rodeo

Council approved $50,000 for the event’s inaugural event in Red Deer

Red Deer County receives third budget award

Award from the Government Finance Officers Association

Dance auditions held for 2019 Canada Winter Games

The 2019 Canada Winter Games committee is holding auditions for volunteers between… Continue reading

UPDATED: Stretching for a good cause at Central Alberta Yogathon in Red Deer

Funds raised go to Central Alberta Sexual Assault Support Centre

Halifax researchers tag great white shark in Atlantic Canada for first time

HALIFAX — For the first time in Atlantic Canadian waters, scientists have… Continue reading

Liberal riding association president blindsided by MP’s defection

OTTAWA — The president of an Ontario Liberal riding association says he… Continue reading

Pope gives bishops more decision-making options

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis decreed on Tuesday that ordinary Catholics should… Continue reading

Hurricane rating system fails to account for deadly rain

TRENTON, N.C. — When meteorologists downgraded Hurricane Florence from a powerful Category… Continue reading

Glad company: Trailer for Disney’s ‘Mary Poppins Returns’

LOS ANGELES — A beloved nanny is preparing to take to the… Continue reading

Jeremy Dutcher wins Polaris prize for ‘Wolastoqiyik Lintuwakonawa’

TORONTO — Jeremy Dutcher has won the 2018 Polaris Music Prize for… Continue reading

Statistics Canada reports manufacturing sales rose 0.9 per cent in July

OTTAWA — Statistics Canada says manufacturing sales increased 0.9 per cent in… Continue reading

China raises tariffs on $60B of US goods in technology fight

BEIJING — China on Tuesday announced a tariff hike on $60 billion… Continue reading

Most Read