It’s winter! Are you getting your daily dose of Vitamin N (Nature)?
We all know that no matter what the season, we need fresh air and sunshine for hormone regularity and to feel good. It’s easy to do during the warmer seasons, but did you know that missing even a few days of natural sunlight could set you back physically and emotionally? According to the Mayo Clinic, Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) can begin in the fall and continue throughout the winter. The symptoms of SAD include depression, fatigue and social withdrawal.
The good news is there is mounting research that shows your health and wellness is strongly connected to your relationship with the natural world. A growing body of research from the disciplines of psychiatry, ecology, psychology, medicine, health, leisure and recreation is demonstrating that contact with nature is essential for human health and wellness.
Health and Wellness—Let’s be Clear
The topic of “health and wellness” can be confusing because they are broad terms often used interchangeably. The World Health Organization defines health and wellness as “a state of physical, mental and social well-being in which disease and infirmity are absent.” This means that H&W is multidimensional in nature and includes physical, mental, social, emotional, and spiritual wellbeing. Each of these dimensions act and interact in a way that contributes to your quality of life.
Connection to Nature
Here’s what the literature says about connection to nature and why it’s important.
• Nature Deficit Disorder — Describes how people are spending less time inthe outdoors, thus, experiencing a range of problems such as, depression, attention disorders, obesity, myopia, and a lack of interest and respect for their natural outdoor surroundings.
• Park Prescriptions — This is a fairly new and simple intervention used by physicians to prescribe time in nature (parks and green space) in place of medications. The aim is to treat the symptoms of stress, depression, and the medically obese with time outdoors.
• Environmental Integration — This is a term I use with my clients in my outdoor fitness practice. It’s one of the great benefits of exercising outside. All it takes is awareness and mindfully connecting mentally and physically—using all of your senses—with your surroundings. (Think: see, smell, feel, hear, etc.) Nature becomes both a guide and a companion.
• Forest Bathing — Involves spending time in forested areas for the purpose of relaxation, recreation, and increased in immune function, namely the production of Natural Killer cells (an anti-cancer protein).
• Attention Restoration — This is a cognitive framework that shows natural environments enhance mood and replenish mental attention; while diminishing stress and fatigue.
Get Your Daily Dose of Vitamin N
To ensure that you are protecting your body and mind health, be sure to get outdoors for 20-60 minutes, on most days. Do your best to get out during daylight hours, preferably in the sunshine for vitamin D production.