Health is referred to as a person’s mental or physical condition.
Health affects our mood, energy metabolism, and immunity.
There was a time when meadow, grove, and stream,
The earth, and every common sight
To me did seem
Apparelled in celestial light,
The glory and the freshness of a dream.
Nature and health. In Wordsworth’s time, perhaps, a long walk in the woods would cure all for whatever plagued our minds and bodies. Today, researchers study the benefits to spending time in nature and the findings are unequivocal. Proximity to nature and exposure to natural setting enhances our cognitive abilities. In children, studies suggest that direct experience with and in nature increased children’s attention spans, their abilities to focus, their creative thought processes, problem- solving abilities, self-discipline, and self-regulation. When children have access to natural play areas it seems to reduce their stress levels. Overall, evidence supports that direct exposure to nature is essential for children’s physical and emotional health.
Take time to be fascinated. Slow down and observe the world. Hundreds of scientific studies have proven consistently that nature is good for our health.
Spend some time “forest bathing.” In japan doctors write prescriptions for their patients suffering from physical illnesses and mental stresses to spend several days in nature. The treatment is called forest bathing and there are direct, immediate benefits including reduced heart rate, increased vitality and improved creative thought processes.
Exercise and health. There has been a great deal of research done on how exercise benefits mood and mental health dating as far back as the 1980s. Here are a few excellent reasons to incorporate exercise into your life:
Physical activity benefits overall brain health by reducing peripheral risk factors for poor mental health–such as inflammation, diabetes, hypertension and cardiovascular disease.
It increases blood flow and delivery of nutrients and energy throughout the body.
Learning to exercise increases self-efficacy and self-esteem.
Physical activity can cause changes in the neurochemicals that affect mood. (These chemicals include serotonin, dopamine, and GABA-gamma-amino butyric acid). Antidepressant and antianxiety medications target these neurochemicals to normalize levels. Research supports that aerobic exercise also increases their levels.
Nutrition and health. When it comes to nutrition it is important to include a variety of foods from the major food groups: fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy products, and lean protein including beans and other legumes, nuts and seeds, and healthy fats. Try to substitute one meat protein a week with a plant-based protein for both environmental and personal health reasons.
Here is a short list of recommended choices from 3 of the food groups:
Fruits. (5 servings a day.) Apples, blueberries, avocado, strawberries, bananas, cantaloupe, figs, kiwifruit, mangos, oranges, blackberries.
Vegetables. (5 servings a day.) Bell peppers, broccoli, spinach, cruciferous vegetables–arugula, brussel sprouts, cabbage, kale, collard greens, yellow vegetables–butternut squash, sweet potatoes.
Proteins: Yogurt, quinoa, chickpeas, peanut butter, beans, nuts, green peas, tempeh, tofu, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, eggs, cottage cheese.
If you have health risks to consider, like high cholesterol or high blood pressure, follow a diet that’s low in salt, saturated fat and cholesterol, and high in fruits, vegetables, whole grains and healthy fats.
Read the labels on the foods you purchase and look for sustainably grown, natural ingredients low in fat and high in vitamins.
Nature-deficit disorder and health. The term nature-deficit disorder is not an official diagnosis, rather, a label that characterizes the growing cost to children as they progressively lose direct contact with nature and the experience of unstructured play in the out-of-doors. It characterizes the toll on humans due to alienation from nature, including diminished use of the senses, attention difficulties, and higher rates of physical and emotional sickness. Current research powerfully suggests that there is a relationship between nature exposure and reduced symptoms of ADD and depression, while lack of exposure plays a role in childhood obesity.
Obesity and health. Worldwide, there has been a startling increase in rates of obesity and overweight in both adults (28% increase) and children (up by 47%) in the past 33 years, with the number of overweight and obese people rising from 857 million in 1980 to 2.1 billion in 2013 (according to a major new analysis from the Global Burden of Disease Study 2011).
Physical and emotional complications of obesity and overweight. Childhood obesity is now one of our nation’s most pressing public health and medical problems. Prevalence rates of overweight in children have tripled since the early 1980’s and the health consequences and related costs of the disease are increasing correspondingly. Along with the medical complications from obesity come a myriad of social and personal costs, including stigma, low self-esteem, depression, anxiety, and disordered eating behaviors.
Environmental impact of lifestyle choices. Current patterns of sedentary indoor lifestyle not only affect children’s’ health, but also have fundamental impacts upon the health of the environment. If children seldom experience nature and have little opportunity to develop an understanding of its benefits, they will be far less likely to make ecologically sustainable choices in the future. This shift away from nature might be the most serious environmental threat facing the world today. On the other hand, if young children engage with the natural world and begin appreciating its infinite complexity, the experience is likely to stay with them in a powerful way, ultimately shaping their lifelong environmental course of action.
Hutan. For World Health. Working together to bring about behavioral changes that will make all of us and the world healthier. Join us on a quest toward improving the quality of life, for all life. For Healthy People. For a Healthy Planet.
Look for new monthly postings on nutrition and health tips as well as a children’s section with downloadable activities that the entire family can learn from and participate in.
Helping you get from where you are to where you want to be.