Yesterday, my husband, daughter and I went on a 3 hour walk in the hills around Littleborough where we live.
My last post, ‘Naturally Speaking’, was about the science behind why nature makes us feel better, both mentally and physically.
Here, in these photographs, you can actually SEE why it has such a huge impact on us. There’s something about all the blue and the green that is calming and serene. You can almost feel the breeze on your face, the sun on your skin, the crunch of the grass beneath your feet, the birds singing in the trees.
I don’t know about you, but right now, just looking at these pictures makes me feel happy!
Yesterday I took my daughter for a chilly but beautiful walk in Tandle Hill Country Park in Oldham. It was just what we needed after being cooped up earlier in the day. We both felt brilliant.
For those who love nature, it will be no surprise to learn that studies have found nature-based therapy dramatically improves mental wellbeing, so if you regularly feel under par, get yourself out there into nature more often. Many of us live in urban areas and rarely see a forest, mountain or waterfall, and it’s having detrimental effects on our health. Giving yourself a hefty dose of vitamin “green” has potent effects on:
how our cells function
our brain and nervous system
It’s even been found that post-surgical patients have improved recovery if exposed to a natural scene from the window of their room.
As for forest walking, studies find it has beneficial effects on:
heart and lung health
immunity and inflammation
blood sugar balance
So even though it may be cold, drag yourself away from that screen.
My younger daughter, who sometimes suffers with anxieties (as do we all from time-to-time) has discovered mindfulness as a way to calm her mind. It’s not the first time lately I’ve caught her lying on the rug in front of the fire, listening to a guided meditation on her laptop. She also has a favourite CD – ‘Rays of Calm’ by Christiane Kerr – that she listens to every night. It’s a series of visualisations that gently guide you into sleep.
The benefits of meditation are multiple:
– reduction of stress/anxiety, and even possibly depression.
– helps to improve self-image and promotes positivity.
– aids in developing a stronger understanding of yourself.
– helps improve memory and concentration, and may reduce age-related memory loss.
– aids with pain management by diminishing the perception of pain in the brain.
– may decrease blood pressure in older participants.
– increases speed of going to sleep and staying asleep.
Making meditation part of your day has so many benefits, we should all give it a go. It only takes a few minutes, and anyway, who says you don’t deserve some time to yourself, just to sit and be?
As for my daughter, judging by her very heavy breathing, it seems that meditation for the purpose of sleep improvement is definitely working, not just at night but at ANY time of the day!!
I’m currently reading ‘When the Body Says No’ by Gabor Mate. It’s an interesting and readable book about the effects of stress on our health outcomes. It describes not just the stresses we feel on a day-to-day basis, but also how our responses to stress might become hyper-reactive due to certain childhood experiences. Many people don’t even recognise their stress because it becomes part of who they are. This doesn’t mean it’s any less damaging however. He connects chronic stress (and our responses to it) as an underlying factor in every disease, including Alzheimer’s, Multiple Sclerosis, Motor Neurone Disease, Heart Disease, Cancer, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Diabetes and Arthritis.
The problem with chronic stress is that over time it starts to negatively affect the body. Constant cortisol release puts the body in ‘fight or flight’ mode. This means the body is in a state where it is ready to escape, so the focus is taken away from important systems such as:
– the immune system – the digestive system – the reproductive system
As a result, our body is:
– unable to digest food and absorb nutrients as efficiently as it should;
You might begin to suffer from more
– colds, allergies, food intolerances and other immune-related issues;
Or you might experience symptoms connected with hormone imbalances.
In high levels, cortisol becomes inflammatory, and chronic inflammation is linked with poor health outcomes.
Cortisol is also linked with energy and the sleep cycle. When it becomes dysregulated through stress you may start to experience symptoms such as insomnia and fatigue.
Taking more time to relax, meditate, and sleep well all have a beneficial effect on your stress levels, and ultimately your health. Put away your gadgets 90 minutes before bedtime too. You may use them as a way to relax, but they have proven detrimental effect on our stress levels.
There are also dietary factors that impact cortisol release, so remember, reducing stress is not only about what you do, and how you perceive and respond to stressors, but also include the quality of the foods (and drinks) you put into your mouth.
This may be the PERFECT Christmas present for yourself or someone you know. For January, I’m offering a mini nutrition assessment for £25 (normally £30).
Perhaps you’ve been thinking about improving your diet, or friends or family want to make changes, but need a little direction. This 45 minute session includes a diet diary analysis and focuses on a symptom you’d like to alleviate. You will leave the session with an understanding of the potential root cause of your symptom, how you may improve it through dietary and lifestyle changes, a nutrition plan and some supplementary recommendations. (NB. This assessment is NOT suitable for more complex or long-standing health conditions).
Please contact me on 07935 599449 to find out whether this service is suitable for you, or to book an appointment. Gift vouchers in values of £5 are also available through Physio & Therapies in Todmorden on 01706 819464.