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Tuesdays in 30 Minutes: 360 Degrees to Women's Health

Our connections to nature


360 Degrees to Health
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Thank you for your support in our last session on Nurtured By Nature. Our discussions in this session and research have revealed just how connected we are to nature and how vital nature is to our well-being from our physical, to our social, mental, emotional, cognitive, occupational and even spiritual well-being. Researchers are continuously providing evidence of the impact that nature has across these dimensions of well-being. 


It is imperative that we reflect on how to increase these connections to nature in our built spaces including our homes, workplaces, schools, healthcare spaces, long-term care residences, even places for spiritual contemplation. Please feel free to share how we might start these discussions with family, friends and colleagues


Research is finding evidence of the incredible impact of nature on our well-being, impacting various dimensions of wellness from physical health to social well-being, our emotional, mental, and cognitive well-being, to our spiritual, intellectual and even occupational well-being.


Physical Wellness:

Spending time outdoors encourages physical activity, from walking in green spaces such as our parks and forests, to enjoying blue spaces. Beyond exercise and overall fitness, nature has been shown to lower our blood pressure, reduce cortisol levels (the stress hormones), promote cardiovascular health, strengthen our muscles and our bones. Furthermore, exposure to natural sunlight boosts vitamin D production-essential for bone health and immune function. Studies have also shown that spending time in green spaces can improves our body's sensitivity to insulin and help manage blood glucose, positively impact our sleeping patterns, reduce inflammation, and positively influence on our immunoregulatory pathways. Specifically, phytoncides or essential oils released by trees and inhaled while forest bathing possess anti-microbial, anti-septic, and anti-cancer effects. (Thangaleela et al. 2022)

Emotional, Mental and Cognitive Wellness:

Nature has the outstanding ability boost to our mood and reduce anger. The beauty of nature creates feelings of awe and wonder. The rhythmic sounds of waves, the gentle rustle of leaves in the wind, or the sounds of animals around us, can have a calming effect on the nervous system. Moreover, spending time in nature fosters mindfulness, allowing individuals to detach from the pressures of daily life, stop ruminating, and find comfort in the present moment. Furthermore, studies have demonstrated that by spending time in nature the activity in the amygdala (involved stress processing) actually decreases.

Social Wellness:

Outdoor activities provide opportunities for meaningful interaction whether with friends, neighbors, or community members. These experiences can promote empathy, greater communication and openness. Studies additionally suggest that in communities with green spaces, the incidence of crime and domestic violence is reduced. This maybe a result of better self-esteem and feelings of patience invoked by spending time in nature. Moreover, engaging in outdoor group activities can reduce loneliness, depression, and anxiety. Feeling connected to others can result in greater resilience and the capacity to cope with the demands of life.


Intellectual Wellness:

Nature can be a source of inspiration. Research suggests that spending time outdoors enhances creativity and problem-solving skills, enhanced working memory, attention and concentration. The impact can be felt across age categories, with children and students enjoying higher test scores with exposure to green spaces including though view of greenspaces from classrooms.

Occupational Wellness:

For many, nature provides the opportunity for personal reflection. The profound beauty of nature can create a sense of humility, prompting individuals to contemplate their greater purpose. Science suggests that through purpose people are better able to cope with challenges. Aside from increased concentration and productivity, incorporating nature into workspaces can provide many of the above benefits, as well as safe spaces (places of refuge) that are inclusive of all women’s health needs.

Conclusion:

The impact of nature on the dimensions of wellness is multifaceted. From enhancing physical health and emotional well-being to fostering social connections, intellectual stimulation, and occupational wellness, continued exposure to nature is vital for our whole health. For women this includes reconnecting with nature both in green and blue spaces and through our built spaces, be it at home and work.

 

References: Thangaleela, S.; Sivamaruthi, B.S.; Kesika, P.; Bharathi, M.; Kunaviktikul, W.; Klunklin, A.; Chanthapoon, C.; Chaiyasut, C. Essential Oils, Phytoncides, Aromachology, and Aromatherapy—A Review. Appl. Sci. 2022, 12, 4495. https://doi.org/10.3390/app12094495


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