Generous doses of nature good for all of us

By Jean Thomson


An ever-growing body of research confirms what many of us feel intuitively: nature is good for us.

When we get outside more or see more natural landscapes, we feel better. Indeed, even photographs of natural areas can help. One study demonstrated that post-surgical patients with window views of natural spaces or even pictures of such areas experienced less pain and better healing than other patients with views of walls or utility areas.

Best of all, however, for those able to do so, is to experience ?green exercise? ? walking outdoors, gardening, fishing and other such activities. While the optimal ?dose? has not been confirmed, some studies suggest that as little as five or 10 minutes may be helpful. Many of the disorders of modern life, from anxiety and ADHD to obesity, can be eased by more outdoor exercise.

Sometimes it is simply not possible to go outside to the trail or the garden. An individual may be sick or caring for someone who is sick. Air temperatures may be dangerously cold. Walking surfaces may be icy. February is certainly a likely month for some of those circumstances!

In those times, some indoor activities can still provide small doses of ?Vitamin N,? the exposure to nature that all of us need. Here are a few ideas.

1. Designate a world-watching window. Keep curtains open and blinds up. Through this window, look for the moon and stars. Try to identify trees through their bark and branching patterns. Watch birds. Take up cloudspotting.

2. Extend the world-watching by expanding your knowledge. Keep field guides and other reference materials available, or turn to good online resources offered by universities and state agencies. Learn the names of unfamiliar birds and the habits of squirrels. Find out how cloud types signal weather events.

3. Use the world-watching window to spark your creativity. Keep a journal of observations, take pictures or sketch what you see.

4. Start a windowsill garden. Select a window that gets good light. Fill a carton or small pot with potting soil. Plant some fast-growing seeds such as radishes. Keep lightly watered. When the sprouts are a couple of inches tall, they can be snipped and added to salads.