November 22, 2018 | David F. Coppedge

Be Thankful for Nature

The health benefits of nature should encourage us to step outside and take it in.

It’s Thanksgiving Day in America. What better time than to take a walk under the trees? Science journals and websites continue to tell us that outdoor exposure is healthy for both mind and body.

Improving city parks may be one path to help make residents more active (Science Daily). City planners should aim for a high ParkScore – that is, the availability of places for residents to enjoy nature. The more available a park, the more people will become physically active. “What we found was that the higher the ParkScore — which is a way of saying the better the park system — the larger the proportion of the population that was engaged in physical activity and just a small positive change in that score can mean quite a bit as far as helping residents taking part in physical activity.”

Girls and women need more time in nature to be healthy (Rebecca Spencer and Sara Kirk, The Conversation). Parks aren’t just for boys. “We learned that nature provided important context for these girls and young women to feel comfortable, safe and confident to navigate the complex gender norms around physical activity.”

Citizens prefer landscapes that combine nature with built infrastructure ( It’s OK to have some buildings and roads in natural settings, researchers found at the Autonomous University of Barcelona, after searching through thousands of nature photos posted on social media. A forest or coastline doesn’t have to look like “pristine nature” as long as the structures fit in and make nature more accessible to citizens. Planners are becoming more aware of “the benefits that nature brings to society and that improve health, economy and people’s quality of life.”

Why natural depression therapies are better than pills (Matt Strauss, The Conversation). Feeling depressed? Taking a walk may be just what the doctor ordered. Among the natural therapies Strauss finds more helpful than medications are (1) Exercise (go take a hike), (2) Bright light therapy (try some sunshine), (3) Mediterranean diet (put some carrots in your daypack), and (4) Cognitive behavioral therapy.

On that last suggestion, don’t trust a shrink. They don’t know what they are talking about most of the time (19 Nov 2018). Instead, walk in the park with a godly mentor, who can help you get your eyes off yourself and your problems and teach you about gratitude (27 Nov 2014).

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