In 2015–16, Elizabeth G Fagan wrote the monthly column “Green Talk” for the Ozaukee County News Graphic on behalf of Mequon Nature Preserve. Fagan has been professional writer for more than 30 years. See more “Green Talk” essays.
New research points to specific factors supporting the claim that being in nature is good for us, a claim that most of us already know, or at least, know intuitively. Being outdoors generally means getting exercise and becoming untethered from electronic devices that cause us to be sedentary creatures of the great indoors. Because trees and plants pull pollutants into their leaves and release fresh air, there is truth to the idea that going outside and “getting a breath of fresh air” makes us feel better.
More recently, though, one study links sunlight and its physiological by-products—including vitamin D—with everything from cancer prevention to improved sports performance to weight loss. The alarmist notion that one should never be exposed to a solitary ray of sun without sunblock has been dispelled. Refer to your health resources to find out how to welcome sunshine back into your life.
Other studies target the effects of nature on the brain. People who live in cities without access to green spaces have a higher risk for anxiety, depression, and other mental illnesses than people living outside urban centers, or even those city dwellers who do spend time in parks or other natural areas. Brain scans support the theory that people walking in nature spend less time thinking negative thoughts than those walking amid the urban jungle.
Elizabeth G Fagan is a writer and artist who resides in southeastern Wisconsin—a place she calls Lake Michigan’s Left Coast. She’s endured the curse of being a writer since attending a private arts high school in Connecticut, where the bad habit was encouraged. She also became a photographer at that high school. She spent all the time she could in the school’s darkroom, creating black and white images from film. Alas, as a second bad habit acquired. Fagan is passionate about the natural world and its creatures.
Follow Elizabeth G Fagan on social media