Nature’s Healthy Benefits
June is National Great Outdoors month, which celebrates what nature has to offer, particularly as it pertains to our health.
Take Time to Smell the Flowers
According to the American Public Health Association (APHA), nature has a positive and direct affect on one’s health. APHA notes elderly people particularly benefit from being outside. The association completed a study which showed elderly people have a stronger sense of wellbeing when they have a view of a garden from their home. They have a reduced risk of developing dementia when they are able to actively garden or even simply rest in a garden. Gardens can also be beneficial to those with Alzheimer’s disease. APHA reported that patients with Alzheimer’s Disease in the study showed reduced agitation when they spent time in a garden. Additionally, APHA discovered that the general population benefits from being outdoors as exposure to nature has shown to reduce blood pressure and improve life expectancy.
Nature is also beneficial to mental health. National Geographic cited a study from the University of Exeter Medical School in England where researchers discovered people living among green landscapes have less mental distress. Also reported by National Geographic, the study concluded living among greener landscapes results in a lower mortality rate and fewer stress hormones.
Home bound patients, and those with limited mobility, can face depressive symptoms from feeling unable to connect with the outside world, but even a limited amount of exposure to nature can have a positive impact. Citing the study Therapeutic Landscapes and Wellbeing in Later Life: Impacts of Blue and Green Spaces for Older Adults, researchers at the University of Minnesota’s Health Sciences and Environment department suggest even small natural features, such as a koi pond, can be enough to influence health in a positive way. Jessica Finlay, one of the authors of the study reported how a “relatively mundane experience, such as hearing the sound of water or a bee buzzing among flowers, can have a tremendous impact on overall health.” Finlay asserts that nature motivates patients “to be active physically, spiritually, and socially, which can offset chronic illness, disability and isolation.”
As Finlay reports, there are simple ways for home health patients to easily gain exposure to the outdoors in ways that are manageable, especially for those with limited mobility. Patients and their caregivers can take small walks, garden, or simply sit outside. If a person cannot get outside, caregivers can bring the outdoors inside by opening a window to feel a breeze or hear the sounds of nature, bird watching through a window, and having flowers and plants displayed on tables. Nature has proven to be beneficial to our overall health and wellbeing. For this year’s National Great Outdoors Month, try exposing yourself and your loved ones to more of what nature has to offer. Take the time to sit and observe the nature around you and absorb its many benefits.