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JOURNEY TO WHOLENESS - April 2017 - Kansas City
Nature: Healing Path to Joy and Creativity
By Jude LaClaire, Ph.D.
Would you believe that one of the best ways to be kinder, happier, more creative, and healthy is to spend more time outdoors? George MacKerron, in the Mappiness study (with over 20,000 participants) of what makes people happy, found something astounding.
“On average, study participants are significantly and substantially happier outdoors in all green or natural habitat types than they are in urban environments.” The joy difference in urban vs. natural settings is greater than the difference of being with friends and about the same as doing a favorite activity.
According to Florence Williams in The Nature Fix: Why Nature Makes Us Happier, Healthier and More Creative, as the predominant population, since 2008, is more urban than rural we have “grown more irritable, less sociable, more narcissistic, more distracted and less cognitively nimble.”
Richard Louv wrote his landmark book The Last Child in the Woods in 2005 and coined the term “nature-deficit disorder.” He described this alarming trend of our disconnection from the natural world and its dire consequences for our children. Sadly, since the publication of his book telling us of the need for young people to spend more time in nature, the studies tell us the gap has grown wider with less time outdoors, instead of more, for all age groups, especially younger children.
Other studies cited by these three authors, and others concur, that there are more chronic ailments, myopia (90% increase in teens with near-sightedness), obesity, depression, anxiety, and loneliness in this last decade.
There is current research studying what is now called “biophilia.” This hypothesis is that we are most at home in nature. E.O. Wilson, a Harvard professor, defined this as “the innately emotional affiliation of human beings to other living organisms.”
Yoshifumi Miyazaki, a Japanese researcher at the center for Environment, Health, and Field Sciences at Chiba University, and a member of the International Society of Nature and Forest Medicine, is studying the effects of time spent in nature measuring blood pressure, pulse rate, variable heart rate, salivary cortisol, and hemoglobin in the brain’s prefrontal cortex. Florence Williams reported about her experience in a forest in Japan and the marked difference in all these body functions when she experienced time outdoors. His research indicates that time spent outdoors with grass, trees, and water make a very big difference in our physical and emotional well-being.
Qing Li, another researcher in Japan, is measuring how being outdoors “smelling trees” helps to build nature killer immune cells, called NK cells, which can protect us from disease agents.
Some people are looking for more outdoor activities and finding them helpful. The Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing is a program dedicated to the physical and emotional rehabilitation of disabled active military service personnel and disabled veterans through fly fishing and associated activities including education and outings. Seeing interviews of the men in this program healing from trauma, stress, and physical injuries was very moving and encouraging.
Jill Suttie, Psy.D. reviewed and summarized the many studies citing the benefits of connecting with nature in Greater Goods magazine:
Makes you happier and less brooding
Relieves attention fatigue and increases creativity
May help you to be kind and generous
Makes you “feel more alive”
Perhaps you may want to think seriously about getting your time outdoors, in hot or cold weather, to give you that free antidote to the mental or physical health issues that are affecting you or could in the future.
Think about how we can preserve the natural resources by supporting groups like the Sierra Club, the Nature Conservancy, or any of the many other organizations helping our natural environment. Enjoy and protect this awesome resource!
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Jude LaClaire, Ph.D., LCPC, is a counselor, educator and author. For counseling appointments, seminars, training, speaking engagements or information on Neurobehavioral Programs or Imago Couple therapy call 913-322-5622. For more information about Jude LaClaire or the Kansas City Holistic Centre go to