Wednesday musings, 12/23/15

Nature is something I am extremely fortunate to experience every day on the Monterey Peninsula. Every morning, I roll out of bed, leave my phone at home (usually), and run or bike ride under the early morning sky. The silence, sounds of the waves, or views of the trails bring a sense of peace and tranquility that can’t be replicated.  

Some researchers suggest nature is the antidote for many of the health problems plaguing modern society, such as obesity, near sightedness, and depression.* While suggesting someone with heart disease should “get outside” might seem like an oversimplification of disease, there is clear evidence spending time in green space affects our minds and our bodies. If nature isn’t something you partake in regularly, try parking near a green space, turn off your phone, and sit in silence, looking at your surroundings for 5 minutes. Getting outside doesn’t have to mean participating in long hikes or birding; it can be as simple as observing the setting of the sun or the hills in the distance. This serves as a form of meditation, an open monitoring of your natural surroundings. The important part is to take a moment without outside distraction and not worry about the perfect picture. Nothing captures the power of nature better than being present.

*National Geographic had a great article on this topic which can be found here: http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/2016/01/call-to-wild-text
Psychologist John Ratey hypothesizes in his book, “Go Wild” that the meditation technique open monitoring allowed our ancestors to take in the surroundings, assessing for threat without moving into fight or flight mode. Whether or not this is true, we will never know, but open monitoring appears to have benefits on both our physiological and psychological well-being.