Mother Nuture

Lichen

Those who follow me on Instagram will know I like to post the occasional picture of clouds and sky. I’d post more if I thought I could get away with it. New research published this week has confirmed what many of us have known all along: that contact with nature – and specifically the sky, trees and birdsong – is good for your mental health and wellbeing.

This research was conducted by King’s College London and used a specially developed smartphone app called Urban Mind. It examined how the mental wellbeing of those who live in cities is affected by exposure to different elements of the natural world.

Results showed that people’s moods improved just by being outdoors (this is obvious really – I know given a choice between a desk and the park where I’d rather be). But the news here is that effects did not dissipate once people had returned to their desks. And after exposure to trees, sky and birdsong in particular, the benefits were more long-lasting – sometimes for up to several hours.

Fatigue

City dwellers are at higher risk of developing mental illness. Living and working in a city and having to constantly attend to traffic, technology and other stimuli on a daily basis can cause a sensory overload. This can result in a neurological state that researchers call “directed attention fatigue”, which occurs when our voluntary attention – the part of the brain that we use to concentrate on particular stimuli while ignoring distractions – gets worn down.

The symptoms of directed attention fatigue include feelings of heightened distraction, impatience and forgetfulness. More severe forms can also lead to poor judgement and increased levels of stress.

For office workers, getting outside at lunchtime and simply sitting in the park looking at trees (or the sky!) gives the brain a break from all this urban stimuli. We all know that some fresh air can clear your head and give you a sense of well-being. Just fifteen minutes of natural sunlight a day can help you synthesise Vitamin D (which in turn helps you sleep at night), lower your cortisol levels and is known to reduce depression and anxiety.

Even a desk by the window for some natural light is beneficial, and a recent report found that office workers with just views of trees had lower stress levels than those who looked across a city.

Daily Dose for Wellbeing

Getting your daily dose of nature doesn’t have to be difficult. You can:

  • Take 15 minutes at lunchtime to visit the local park
  • Walk or cycle to work
  • Take the scenic commute
  • Sit outside on a patio or balcony during a screen break

Try to be mindful while you are doing any of these as focussing will help you connect to your environment. Try to leave your phone behind, or at the very least put it out of sight on the “do not disturb” mode.

I conducted my own experiment today. Wannabe Junior had forgotten his PE kit so I walked it to school at lunchtime down the quieter back streets of our neighbourhood. There were a few moments when there was no traffic and so I listened. All I heard was the sound of my footsteps and the most beautiful birdsong. In the normal scheme of things I doubt I would have noticed either. Were I a twitcher I’d have been able to identify the species but alas I am not, so all I can report is that it was beautiful. And that I felt great. I also managed to take the photo for this post en route. Look at that beautiful lichen! How could seeing that not improve your mood?

Apologies for another research-based blog, it’s back to the yoga mat next week, I promise. But if you’ll excuse me right now I’m off to walk the dog. And I’ll take a look at the trees and the sky while I’m at it.

PS

You know, the sky is everywhere. All you have to do is look up.

Are you a city dweller? Do you make the effort to go outside and see nature on a daily basis? What are your strategies against “directed attention fatigue”?

Signed by: Monika.

Share:

  1. Lenie on 15 January 2018 at 11:10 am

    Monika, I know this is so true. When I was working – in a high-stress job – I would occasionally take the time to go sit by the river, which was really right outside my office door. Just a few minutes there would help me unwind and enable me to carry on. Since I retired I have taken up gardening, especially herbs and I can’t tell you how beneficial that has been.

    • Monika Maurer on 15 January 2018 at 11:15 am

      How interesting Lenie – the research said that exposure to water didn’t have any long-lasting wellbeing benefits, but I agree with you. I grew up by a river and I always find being by water (any kind) soothing. Perhaps it is the surrounding green that has the effect. Either way, if it works don’t change it! I too used to enjoy gardening but now I have children I find it another thing on the “to do” list. I look forward to having the time to enjoy it again at some point. Lucky you!

  2. Catarina on 15 January 2018 at 3:15 pm

    It’s so true that nature has a wonderful impact on human beings. Even if you are on a train looking out the window. That happens to me when I go to university and look at the nature outside the train.

    • Monika Maurer on 15 January 2018 at 6:12 pm

      I agree Catarina, and what a way to spend what could be a stressful commute – by recharging those batteries with a bit of greenery!

  3. Phoenicia on 15 January 2018 at 6:46 pm

    I am an outdoors person and struggle in the winter months. In spring and summer I enjoy being in the outdoors preferably in a pretty park as oppose to just walking along the street. I daydream of taking hikes and going on nature trails but rarely do due to lack of free time and the fact I have small children who would prefer participating in other activities.

    As the temperature dropped I stopped going for walks during my lunch break. It benefited me walking in the crisp air and I need to encourage myself to restart this.

    Thank you for the encouragement.

    • Monika Maurer on 15 January 2018 at 8:26 pm

      I completely empathise Phoenicia. We all know we feel better when we get out and I too struggle in winter, particularly January (the UK is particularly bleak at this time of year I feel). Having written this piece though I have been so much more aware of the skies at this time and they really are beautiful. Look up and see if they give you a boost. Co-incidentally, I too have children who are generally not keen on nature walks but we borrowed a friend’s dog as an excuse to get us all out and I was surprised how much the boys loved it. It’s good for everyone to get out in nature.

  4. Marquita Herald on 15 January 2018 at 7:05 pm

    Great advice. I live in a forest in Oregon now, but I was raised in Los Angeles so I completely understand the city dweller stress issue. My last job before we escaped was near Compton, CA and for safety reasons, we weren’t allowed outside the building during the day had to be escorted to our cars when we left work at night. From there we moved to Maui – talk about culture shock!

    • Monika Maurer on 15 January 2018 at 8:29 pm

      Wow Marquita, it sounds as if you made a good move. I haven’t been to Oregon, but I did spend a few days in LA this summer, which I found almost overwhelmingly urban. And I have been to Maui (about 20 years ago) WHICH I LOVED! You certainly have lived in some interesting places – I hope you are happy now in Oregon?! I would love to live in a forest, but we are lucky enough to have woods near to where I live (in the city) where I escape to as often as I can…

  5. Doreen Pendgracs on 15 January 2018 at 11:42 pm

    I am VERY fortunate to be a country dweller. So my connection to and appreciation of Mother Nature and her nurturing effect is ongoing and ever-present.

    • Monika Maurer on 16 January 2018 at 12:04 pm

      I envy you Doreen. Although I do love all that living in the city has to offer, I also would love to live in the countryside. Lucky you. Praise be to Mother Nature!

  6. William Rusho on 18 January 2018 at 6:11 pm

    To saw I grew up in a rural setting would be an understatement. I learned how to trap and hunt, my freezer was full of venison for the winter.
    I work and live in a city during the week, but head home on the weekends. I can tell you when I get home, open up the car doors, and see nature around me, it recharges me. You need time just to leave the city and get back to what we originally were, a part of nature.

    • Monika Maurer on 18 January 2018 at 8:02 pm

      I couldn’t agree more William! Nature is fundamental to our being; it recharges and grounds us. For city dwellers it’s so important to that “fix”. What a great upbringing you must have had and how lucky you are to still be able to access it. Thanks for your comment!

  7. RoseMary Griffith on 19 January 2018 at 6:58 pm

    These posts are as important as the yoga ones! Love the photo. Since I just came in from breaking up ice on the driveway and side in the first sun we have seen in at least a week, I couldn’t agree more with how good it made me feel. Fifteen minutes was all it took!

    Now, to get my butt back out for a walk. Ah, but so much work to get done yet today.

    • Monika Maurer on 21 January 2018 at 8:51 pm

      Hi Rose Mary – I guess you probably got a fair amount of exercise (and certainly your fix of fresh air and sky!) while breaking up the ice. Not that I should be discouraging ANYONE to go for a walk… Glad you like these posts; I like them too. Not everyone is into yoga (although it is my mission to make everyone aware of the benefits it can bring) but I do hope that there is something on my blog that everyone might find of interest. Thanks for the comment!

Leave a Comment





Writer, blogger, mother, wife, wannabe yogi. Good intentions, zero willpower.

Signed by: Monika Maurer

Let's Connect

Subscribe

Follow me on Instagram

More from

WannabeYogi logo written in a handwritten font.
WannabeYogi logo written in a handwritten font.

The Cherry Orchard: Gratitude

23 February 2018

What the…? Face Yoga!?

16 February 2018

Sweet Potato Flatbread

08 February 2018

Another Super Soup

02 February 2018

Strength: Three Reasons

26 January 2018

Yoga for Strength

19 January 2018

Mother Nuture

12 January 2018

The Caffeine Hit

05 January 2018

Scientific Resolution

29 December 2017

Wild Wolf’s Yoga

22 December 2017

Take Five

15 December 2017

What’s the Secret?

08 December 2017

‘Tis the Season…

01 December 2017

Skip to It

17 November 2017

Healthy Chocolate Brownies

03 November 2017