It is another lovely day as I write this, with blue skies, little cotton wool clouds and plenty of sunshine. I think by the time you read this it will be grey. colder and even wet! The weather has quite an effect on our wellbeing and where we cope well with the odd wet day here and there (after all it is good for the gardens,) we draw into ourselves if this keeps up!
It is no surprise then, to read that nature has a positive effect on our wellbeing - our being outside enjoying all that Mother Earth shows us. I don't really think we need the reporters of The New Scientist magazine to inform us of this.
You know yourselves how you feel when outside, maybe just in the garden, perhaps sharing a socially distanced chat with one other household or maybe with yourself. Also, how do you feel after your daily walk with or without your four footed friend? How observant are you as you potter about looking at the plants, birds or animals around you? That feeling of being able to breath the air deeply, and let go for the time being of our worries and concerns is vital. I know some of you on your walks have charted the changes through the weeks and seasons. This report in the New Scientist suggests that after more than two hours outside the benefits diminish.
"After 2 hours, the health benefits of being out in nature seem to give diminishing returns, with a cut-off after 5 hours." says Matthew White of the University of Exeter. I wonder why that has been found to be so? The report suggests may be, "the health benefits might be a byproduct of physical activity, not contact with nature." Now we all know that exercise encourages the release of endorphins which can lead to lower levels of depression, stress and fatigue. But people can benefit from this even when not exercising and, as Matthew White states, even by just sitting on a garden bench.
"The magnitude of health gains of 2 hours spent in nature appear to be significant, on a par with the health differences associated between living in a well-off area and a deprived one. They also seem to apply to everyone, regardless of age, gender, long term illness or disability. 'You don’t have to be running around the park, just sitting on a bench will do,' says White."
So is it just about being outside or is it about the actual engaging with what you see around you, the natural world? Someone talked with me recently about her new found joy in watching ants. She had not realised before how intelligent they are and how resourceful they are having learned all about it in school. As she watched them in her garden she blocked their way with objects to see if the ants could be redirected or even threatened by her actions and no they continued just avoiding the blockage. It appeared to her that nothing would stop the industrious ant on its journey.
What have you been watching as you have been outside? Certainly this week in I have noticed the antics of our aggressive blackbirds around the garden, squirrels, a solitary mouse, foxes conversations with their cubs and a second round of nest building going on in our hedges. A friend's adopted hen "Mrs Cluck" settling in and making sure she was top hen, over their many rescued cats!
When we are outside enjoying nature's free show, we can enter into almost another world and we do feel refreshed and uplifted on our return home. Simple delights and sometimes pains, keep us alert and on our toes, create thoughts and memories, however tiny. A sense of wellbeing, of being within God's world, complete in its most minute details. The feel good factor is always present the trouble is so often we are too busy to acknowledge it or not aware of what is going on.
1 Bless the Lord, O my soul. O Lord my God, you are very great. You are clothed with honor and majesty, 2 wrapped in light as with a garment. You stretch out the heavens like a tent, 3 you set the beams of your[a] chambers on the waters, you make the clouds your[b] chariot, you ride on the wings of the wind, 4 you make the winds your[c] messengers, fire and flame your[d] ministers.
5 You set the earth on its foundations, so that it shall never be shaken. 6 You cover it with the deep as with a garment; the waters stood above the mountains. 7 At your rebuke they flee; at the sound of your thunder they take to flight. 8 They rose up to the mountains, ran down to the valleys to the place that you appointed for them. 9 You set a boundary that they may not pass, so that they might not again cover the earth.
10 You make springs gush forth in the valleys; they flow between the hills, 11 giving drink to every wild animal; the wild asses quench their thirst. 12 By the streams[e] the birds of the air have their habitation; they sing among the branches. 13 From your lofty abode you water the mountains; the earth is satisfied with the fruit of your work.
14 You cause the grass to grow for the cattle, and plants for people to use,[f] to bring forth food from the earth, 15 and wine to gladden the human heart, oil to make the face shine, and bread to strengthen the human heart. 16 The trees of the Lord are watered abundantly, the cedars of Lebanon that he planted. 17 In them the birds build their nests; the stork has its home in the fir trees. 18 The high mountains are for the wild goats; the rocks are a refuge for the coneys. 19 You have made the moon to mark the seasons; the sun knows its time for setting. 20 You make darkness, and it is night, when all the animals of the forest come creeping out. 21 The young lions roar for their prey, seeking their food from God. 22 When the sun rises, they withdraw and lie down in their dens. 23 People go out to their work and to their labor until the evening.
24 O Lord, how manifold are your works! In wisdom you have made them all; the earth is full of your creatures. 25 Yonder is the sea, great and wide, creeping things innumerable are there, living things both small and great.