Complementing Our Diabetes Care With Regular Doses Of Nature

With a condition such as diabetes we tend to focus on getting healthy by addressing our physical symptoms, yet well-being depends on our emotional and psychological health as well.

One of the best ways to keep our mind and body in balance is spending time outdoors, but it’s estimated the average American spends 80 to 99 percent of their time inside.

Maybe our physicians should prescribe all patients a daily or weekly dose of nature, so we wander outside more often.

Nature and Well-Being

Naturally, walking through a park or forest will not put our diabetes into remission, but health is more than alleviating a set of symptoms. A connection with the natural world supports our overall wellness, for instance:

  • Time outdoors decreases anxiety and depression, two mental health issues that often accompany chronic illnesses, including diabetes.
  • Being in the natural world helps us view ourselves more positively, and is associated with enhanced social connections.
  • The relaxing influence of nature reduces stress, and fatigue. It’s also been shown to improve blood pressure—a plus for heart health.
  • Provided enough skin is showing, getting a regular dose of sunlight boosts our vitamin D levels.

The outdoors factor is why 80 percent of gardeners consider themselves happy, and satisfied with their lives, compared to 67 percent of non-gardeners. The more time people spend tending their gardens, the higher their life satisfaction.

Natural Influences

To encourage ourselves to get outdoors more, here are some additional things research has taught us about the health perks that nature affords:

  • When we hold moist soil in our hands for 20 minutes the soil’s bacteria begins lifting our mood, according to psychologist Craig Chalquist at the California Institute of Integral Studies.
  • Forest bathing, or Shinrin-yoku, has been part of the national health program in Japan for 35 years. Extensive research has shown that when people slow down, and spend time in the woods it lowers their blood glucose levels, blood pressure, and stress hormones.
  • The proven benefits of being in natural settings spawned the concept of ecotherapy, an umbrella term for different types of outdoor treatments, such as horticultural therapy, wilderness therapy, animal-assisted, and farm therapies.
  • Our brains are easily fatigued, especially when continuously bombarded with information. Enjoying our natural surroundings not only refreshes the body, it clears the mind, and enhances its performance. For instance, one study showed that after a three-day wilderness trek an Outward Bound group did 50 percent better on creative problem-solving tasks.
  • Spending time in nature diminishes rumination, those persistent negative thoughts that rattle around our mind looking for, but never finding, resolution.
  • Nature’s sounds reduce our stressful fight-or-flight instincts, and stimulate our rest-and-digest autonomic nervous system. Bird calls, rustling leaves, and flowing water produces brain activity with an outward directed focus. This moves our thoughts away from worries, and helps us enjoy the present moment.

Though it’s unlikely our physicians will write “time in nature for at least 30 minutes, 3-4 days per week” on our diabetes treatment plan, enjoying the outdoors more often is something positive we can prescribe for ourselves.

The goal of life is to make your heartbeat match the beat of the universe, to match your nature with Nature. ~ Joseph Campbell, Reflections on the Art of Living

Source: Mercola
Photo credit: Outer Shores Expeditions

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