Mother Nature's Soothing Effect
I go to nature to be soothed and healed, and to have my senses put in order - John Burroughs
Haven't we all been so anxious at times we just felt the urge to go outside and clear our heads and gather our thoughts? Or maybe we even need to get away from thinking altogether for a short while and simply walk with a quiet mind. Taking a break by walking or just sitting outside or gardening, for example, can help clear and reset our overloaded circuits and reduce feelings of being overwhelmed. Think of it as free therapy!
Now some people might view this as too simple-sounding. How can I possibly think about staring at trees or lakes when I'm in a major life crisis?! Big problems with no clear or easy solution on the horizon can greatly increase feeling distressed and anxious. Then the brain becomes like a hamster on a treadmill, spinning over and over with no way out, anxiously ruminating over the same thoughts. However, there has been growing interest and research in the field of psychology - both neuropsychology and ecopsychology - examining the vital link between mind and nature.
Harvard Medical School doctors Eva Selhub and Alan Logan co-authored "Your Brain on Nature: The Science of Nature's Influence on Your Health, Happiness, and Vitality" (John Wiley & Sons Canada, 2012). They studied the effect of nature on mood (and mood disorders), memory, and cognitive functioning. One example cited by the authors' research: "Walking is one of the most effective ways to keep the brain cognitively fit. In one study of 2,200 males, walking two miles a day reduced the risk of dementia by half. And nature-based exercise provides a much-needed cognitive advantage in an overly distracting world... Exercise supports blood flow to the brain, which in turn encourages even further production of the chemicals that take care of our brain cells. Even a two hour walk through a forest can reduce chemicals linked to depression, cardiovascular disease, and inflammation."
Many of us may also find interesting the authors' comments on nature in the age of digital devices: "Information, regardless of its quality, is now emerging as a type of highly palatable food in its ability to fire up the dopamine reward neurons... In a sea of instant information and trivia, the info-rewards are numerous and at the ready to fire up the brain's reward system. This exlains a lot about why we can't extract ourselves from our gadgets. It explains why taking a tech break is so difficult."
So make time to exhale. Take that walk, or bike, or mobile scooter, or motorized wheelchair, or walk that dog or a neighbor's dog. By the way, interacting with dogs can cause an increase in the production of oxytocin produced in the brain, which has been shown to decrease stress and improve mental outlook.
Cynthia Kessler, Ph.D., has been a clinical psychologist and psychotherapist for the past 25 years, with a private practice in San Francisco and now Lakewood. Her office is located in the INA Building sat 14701 Detroit Ave. Medicare and some other insurances are accepted. She can be reached at (216)543-1695.
Cynthia Kessler, Ph.D. has been a practicing psychologist and psychotherapist in California and more recently Ohio for the past 25 years. She has recently opened her new psychotherapy office in the INA building at 14701 Detroit Ave., Lakewood. She can be contacted at (216) 543-1695. Insurance accepted.