A reminder about the studied benefits of spending time in nature and what it does for our health! If you’re feeling stressed, this Mindful Monday
Hey guys! I’m so excited to introduce you to my intern, Emma. Emma’s a student at Boston University finishing up her graduate coursework in nutrition and about to embark on her dietetic internship to become a RD! She has been helping me out behind the scenes here at TFD for the past six months. This girl and I have lots in common – we both share a love for travel, yoga and the outdoors, which is what this guest post is all about! Without further ado, meet Emma!
Hi all! I would first love to thank Kara for taking me on as an intern during my graduate studies at BU to help with her social media, research, blogs, and the ins & outs of running your own business. I am super grateful for everything I learned and it was an invaluable experience!
I’ve always admired Kara’s Mindful Monday posts and was eager to write my own when she gave me the opportunity. I love the idea of starting off your week with a new way to bring mindfulness into your life. Today I’ll share with all of you my favorite way to bring mindfulness into my life. That would be my love for nature!
That’s right, the big outdoors! I am what you would call an earthy, crunchy gal that loves camping, hiking, exploring and pretty much anything you can do outside. Growing up in a small suburb in the woods of MA, I always had my fix of trees and fresh air. Then attending college in Boulder, CO I had the beautiful Rockies in my back yard. I would spend most weekends skiing, hiking with friends or tubing down the creek in the summer. While I successfully graduated with a degree in Biology & Psychology, I still got that terrifying feeling most post-grads do about my next move/ chapter/ job… SO, I decided to follow my gut and move to Alaska! This was not only when I realized I wanted to become a registered dietitian but also how important mindfulness can change your life. At the time, I thought I wanted to be a marine biologist (REALLY switched careers) so I took on a job counting salmon on the Kenai River. Strange? Yes. But it was by far my most life changing experience I’ve ever had. I lived in a 1970’s airstream trailer in the Kenai Wildlife Refuge and walked down to the river every day to count the fishies. However, with no wifi, working laptop, or a car to get around, I really immersed myself in nature, books & cooking to pass the time. Through these experiences, I started to really live in the moment and become mindful of what was important to me. I was present for all feelings and experiences as they came to me because there were no distractions. It was through this mindful journey that I realized my calling was to help people and become a RD. Deep stuff!
Ok, back to the main point. While I don’t think everyone needs to go “extreme” and live in the woods for months to realize how amazing nature is, I know that there are SO many benefits to getting outside. It’s not only is a great way to exercise, but it really can help you mentally & physiologically. I recently read the book “The Nature Effect” (seriously everybody should go out and buy it) and it finally confirmed everything I had always believed in. The author, Florence Williams, traveled all over the world searching for nature’s magic effects and how it’s really needed for us to thrive. Due to things like our iPhones, computers, and long working hours indoors, we are losing our connection with nature faster and faster. And our Western “on-the go” fast paced life is only creating increased cortisol levels (your stress hormones) and high blood pressure which give greater risk of heart disease, depression, and metabolic disorder.
Luckily for us, taking a step outside into nature can solve all of these problems! Research from this book shows that just by spending 30 minutes on a walk in the woods or by the water, you can lower blood pressure, cortisol, heart rate, and sympathetic nervous system activity. Studies also showed that with increased time spent in green areas outside, people reported feeling more restored, relaxed, and creative. Crazy, right? Florence summed up her travels and research with a 5 hour a month recommendation for time spent outside. This is the minimum dose to really see effects in your mental & physiological state.
So, what is my advice to you? Find any excuse you can to be in the outdoors. Now that summer is nearly upon us, it’s the perfect weather to go outside. Go kayaking, take a walk in the woods, or even try gardening. If you’re planning a big vacation, try and pick a more natural area versus a big city. If you work in a busy city environment, try to find a park at least once a week to walk through and unwind. And if you can’t always find the time to get outside, try putting up pictures in your office or home walls of scenic views. MRI studies reported that even seeing these scenic pictures activates the insula and interior cingulate areas of our brains which are associated with pleasure and empathy. City pictures however send brain waves to the amygdala which deal with anxiety and fear. WOW!
To sum it all up, I’m a firm believer in the power of nature. If we spend more time outside, we can be healthier, happier, and more mindful of this beautiful Earth we live on. So, make your mind, body & soul happy and explore the outdoors.
Wishing you a mindful week!
Emma Gallagher is currently pursuing her Masters in Nutritional Science and training to become a registered dietitian at Boston University. She’s eager to start her career and see what adventures are ahead.