June is probably my favorite month here in West Michigan. The lush greenness everywhere. The warm days and cool nights. The longest daylight hours of the year. The flower-scented air when I’m out for an evening stroll.
I live in a naturally beautiful area, not too far from Tunnel Park, so no matter what direction I walk in, I’m just minutes from a park or woods or a view of the lake and the beach. I’m so fortunate. I think of the kids up the road at Camp Blodgett’s summer camp, many of whom have never seen Lake Michigan before. Part of the reason Camp Blodgett exists is to give the experience of nature to everyone:
Camp Blodget was founded by a group of women who wanted to create more opportunities for the children living at D.A. Blodgett’s Home for Children (now D.A. Blodgett-St.John’s). They began taking the orphaned children on an annual camping trip and could see a positive impact in the children’s mental and physical health from that experience. Inspired to keep supporting these children, the women, known as Camp Blodgett’s Guild, asked John Blodgett if he would purchase land where they could operate a summer camp. In 1921, Mr. Blodgett purchased and then donated 47 acres of lakeshore property to begin Camp Blodgett.
They knew then, as we do now, the importance of being outside. For example, the Trust for Public Land’s latest annual report details the many health boosts for those who live near parks. Parks offer spaces for physical activity and social gatherings, improve visitors’ moods, and provide respite from noise, air pollution, and the effects of climate change. Residents of the top 25 cities by ParkScore are less likely to report poor mental health or low physical activity.
“If we had a medicine that delivered as many benefits as parks, we would all be taking it. Parks deliver cardiovascular benefits, fight loneliness, combat osteoporosis, counter stress anxiety, and more. And they do those things without adverse side effects and at minimal costs.” Dr. Howard Frumkin, Senior Vice President at Trust for Public Land and former dean of the University of Washington School of Public Health
And though most of us intrinsically know that nature makes us feel good, science backs Dr. Frumkin up. There are SO MANY BENEFITS, including helping restore attention (say at school or at work) after walking outside, less frustration, better mood, better memory, and gains in relaxed and meditative mental states. There are more research articles on this topic than I could include!
Part of nature’s power lies in its ability to wash away whatever is provoking a lot of our stress, explains Dr Daily. Slow movements such as the ripples of water or clouds moving across the sky place effortless demands on our working memory but enough to distract us from spiralling rumination, self-blame and hopelessness. Researchers call this capacity to hold our attention the “soft fascination” of nature. (BBC)
Plus, the benefits of working out and being in nature add up when you do them at the same time. It’s additive! So exercising outdoors can be even better for you than doing the same activity indoors, especially for the brain.
So get out there…any time of year! But since this is my favorite, I’ll be especially enjoying those additive benefits this summer. 🙂