Recently on a Saturday morning, I was driving to yoga class, with the windows down, the sunroof open, and tunes blasting. It was one of those brilliantly sunny days, in the mid-seventies with the humidity uncharacteristically low for August, and the air was buzzing with salient energy, life, and joy. Know what kind of day I mean?
As I whizzed along, enjoying the wind whipping my hair and sunshine warming my left arm, propped on the window opening, I noticed that very few other cars had their windows down. “Why the heck not?” I wondered. It made me sad to see how disconnected people have become from their environment in this way as they sat in their closed off cars with the stale, recirculated air conditioning blowing on them.
OK. Some may legitimately claim allergies, but what about the rest? Have we gotten so far removed from the Earth we live on, from the nature all around us that we can’t even enjoy, much less exist, in it without our modern comforts creating an artificial, and, often, unhealthy environment? Have we forgotten that we are part of and vitally connected to the trees, the grass, and other life all around us?
Fresh air produced in natural settings, around trees, and moving water, is good for you and your brain for many reasons. Away from the smog of cities, fresh air, being more ionized, has a different chemical makeup which is better for your body. This purer air cleans your lungs and is filled with the oxygen your brain loves.
Modern research is showing what many have known all along, that communing with nature can improve your memory, focus, and attention. After just an hour of interacting with nature, memory and attention span improved by 20%.
In his book, Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children From Nature-Deficit Disorder, Richard Louv, introduces the term “nature-deficit disorder” to describe the growing gap between nature and people, specifically kids, and the consequences. Louv refers to a dose of green, nature, as “vitamin N.”
In the article, “Health Benefits of Being Outdoors“, he writes:
A growing body of research links more time in nature — or in home, work or hospital environments enhanced through nature-based design — with reduction of stress and depression, faster healing time and less need for pain medication. …Other benefits of vitamin N include enhanced use of the senses and higher work productivity.”
When exercising outside, you breathe more deeply, bathing your brain and muscles with even more oxygen. Your brain, an oxygen hog, uses twenty percent of your body’s oxygen.
Other studies have shown that people who exercise outside exercised longer, more often and reaped slight physical and psychological benefits over those who completed similar activity indoors. Speculation is that the benefit might have to do with sunlight and getting a healthy dose of vitamin D, which many Americans are lacking due to indoor lifestyles. Vitamin D deficiency has been linked to osteoporosis, cancer, high blood pressure, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, depression and more.
On the next pretty, warm day (or even chilly – invigorating!) roll down the car windows or open the windows in your home. Go for a walk, run, or hike. Take up gardening and get the added benefit of being able to eat your efforts. Go camping under the stars. Sit on a park bench and just breathe the fresh air.
Your brain and body will thank you.
image source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/scotbot/