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Do you have nature deficiency disorder? Increasingly, we have become an indoor society as well as one that is glued to a screen of some sort (ie: hand held devices, tablets, laptops, etc.). I am amazed at how low some of my patients’ vitamin D levels are when I review their test results – without fail, those in careers that spend the most amount of time indoors, glued to their office chair have the lowest levels. Nature is, by my definition, the outdoor environment that includes close association with trees, plants, open air and sunshine. It doesn’t have to be in the wilderness and can include time spent in a park, a local trail or conservation area. Gardening outdoors is another simple way to be in nature, even if you live in a big city. There is a growing body of evidence indicating that there are significant health benefits from simply being in nature and I will outline some of what nature can do for you and your family’s health.

Health Benefits of Adding Nature in Your Life

1) Being outdoors means more opportunity for the sun to stimulate vitamin D production in your skin. Simply put, more nature means more vitamin D in your body. On it’s own, vitamin D can benefit cognition, mood, immune functions and bone health.

2) Nature speeds healing. A study that looked at recovery after gallbladder removal surgery compared two groups: those with a room with a window view of a natural scene compared to those with the view of a brick wall. Those with a nature view had a shorter hospital stay, gave less negative comments and took fewer potent painkilling medications.

3) Nature has restorative effects on the mind and on your energy overall. Compare the typical urban environment where there are many things that demand your attention: the cars driving by, constant and varying noises, many lights and other stimuli. However, in nature, it’s a different kind of busy: sounds of the wind in the trees or of a nearby stream or brook or birds chirping. Nature provides more interesting ways to observe and engage as opposed to the sudden and dramatic stimuli in the city environment. Studies on mental benefits of nature walks have shown that they can restore and improve cognitive functions and performance.

4) More calories burned. Exercise done outdoors burns more calories when compared to the same amount of time and exercise performed indoors.

5) There are social health benefits with access to nature. A Chicago study found that there is a significant decrease in crime rates, violence and aggression when urban areas are surrounded by green space compared to other urban areas with limited greenery. Think about how you can green your space, even if it just indoor plants and indoor gardening… and watch your mind bloom!

6) The Journal of Health Psychology published a study that looked at how the body recuperated after a stressful experience. The researchers found that 30 minutes of gardening after a stressful experience reduced the level of stress hormone (cortisol) much more effectively than reading a book indoors. It also found that gardening led to a significantly more positive mood. If you don’t have a greenspace to garden, consider joining a local CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) group.

7) Nature can also invoke deeper feelings of connectedness and inspiration. Imagine the power and awe of witnessing a waterfall, or an expansive mountain scene or of a flowering meadow. Studies have found improved aspects of spiritual well-being such as an improved sense of purpose, connectedness and faith in a larger reality.

Dr. Rahim Habib ND
About the Author

Rahim Habib is a registered naturopathic doctor with over 15 years of experience in general family practice. He has a special interest in helping patients comprehensively detoxifying their bodies for preventative and therapeutic benefit. He also has a special interest in children’s health, assisting kids in their learning and behavioural health with conditions such as ADHD, Autism spectrum, asthma, allergies and childhood obesity. He also helps adults with chronic conditions, such as thyroid disorders, infertility, inflammation, obesity, autoimmunity, dementia and cancer care. He is the director of the Four Seasons Naturopathic Clinic for Detoxification and Healing and can be reached at 905-597-7201 or www.FamilyNaturopath.ca.