Archive for December, 2010

December 6, 2010

I’m a New Yorker with Nature Deficit Disorder. The Antidote? Acadia National Park in Maine.

Last week Jane Brody’s “Personal Health” column in the New York Times encouraged us to “head out for a daily dose of green space.”  

It was as if she had seen me that morning, lingering on the way to the subway to talk to the guy planting bulbs which will emerge as glorious tulips next May. 

Just that thought picked up my spirits, as does my three-block walk to the subway.  The sky, fresh air, and trees are in short supply during my days at this time of year.  I need that walk. 

In a wonderful article in Psychology Today about green exercise, Alan Fogel explains why, “There is something unique about being outside, even without exercising, that brings us back to present moment of feelings and sensations, to our body sense. Outside, it is somehow easier to shed the ruminative thoughts and worries, the inner dialogues and routine mental ruts, and just feel our bodies in concert with nature.”

So, “addiction” probably is the right word to explain the urgent need I feel to get to Acadia National Park at least two or three times a year.

According to Jane Brody, national parks are a big part of the prescription that a growing network of physicians, health insurers, naturalists and government agencies are giving for benefits that go beyond those of exercise in a gym. 

Alan Fogel explains the science, “…Outdoor exercise restores us by bringing us back to ourselves…Sensing into our bodies in the present moment activates neural networks that enhance self-regulation, reduce stress hormones, and boost immune system function. Our brain has a few rudimentary tools for doing this job of self maintenance…But when we pay attention to our bodies directly, without thought or judgment, we can substantially amplify the brain’s power to heal ourselves.” 

I’m going to keep reading to find out why even pictures of Acadia make me feel better.