How nature can help you heal

August 03, 2018 | by Mary Lou Mastro

I’m one of those people who spends time outdoors year-round.

We were meant to be in nature. I love being outside.

I’m a runner and a walker, and I always do it outside. Connecting with nature, being physical and exercising, it’s critical for me. It helps me clear my head. It’s probably the number one way I can de-stress.

Being in the great outdoors makes a huge difference in my attitude. Fresh air, the birds. Even when it’s below zero, I feel like I’m in sync with something so much greater than me.

A lot of the mental and physical benefits I get from my outdoor runs and walks aren’t the result of the exercise as much as the experience of being outside.

You don’t even have to exercise while you’re outside to reap the benefits of nature. A leisurely stroll will help improve your health, too. Studies have shown that taking time to unplug and be outside, with no goal beyond just experiencing the world around you, has a positive effect on your well-being.

When you’re sick or recovering, being able to see the natural world, even through a window, or spend time in a garden can help you heal faster.

Edward and Elmhurst hospitals have done a wonderful job of incorporating healing arts, including nature. Elmhurst Hospital has balconies where people can go outside off the medical units, walking paths, and healing gardens. Edward Hospital also has a healing garden and beautiful outdoor spaces.

Every patient has to have a window — it makes a huge difference to see the changing nature outside.

These outdoor areas provide a place for patients and their families to destress — as well as our employees. I love seeing people outside going for walks on their lunch hour.

Make time to take yourself outside this week. Walk the dog. Push a baby in a stroller. Just take a walk and observe the world around you, listen to the sounds. Let your mind relax. Better health will follow.

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