Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Get Outside!

Winter is long and hard. The boat is out of the water and my garden is buried in white. Although I get out for walks every day on my lunch hour it is definitely not the same thing as just sitting and being outside, soaking up the elements.

Caroline has invited us out for a winter hike on several Sundays and it has been great to walk in the woods and tromp less-travelled paths. A couple of times we used snowshoes. It’s been at least two decades since I’ve gone snowshoeing, and  I forgot how much fun it can be to come across animal tracks,  or venture out onto a blank winter canvas to make tracks of your own.

It's becoming a ritual for Rob to bring out the stirrup cups midway and pour everyone a treat. A peaty Laphroaig hit the spot, and so did our improvised snow cones....a scoop of nice clean snow into the little silver cup with maple liqueur on top. Now that's a Canadian cocktail!

I’ve used both the old-school shoes and “fitness shoes” on these outings. The old school shoes are heavier going and a bit more difficult to navigate over fallen logs, but they’re almost worth the extra effort for the nostalgia kick. On a pleasure hike, I think I still prefer them, but if it is a more serious hike, the fitness shoes make a lot more sense.

I've enjoyed getting outside in the winter weather but am looking forward to the end of this bitter cold.

Get the Jump on Spring was recently held at the Toronto Botanical Garden, and I sat in on a couple of presentations. One was Using Horticulture as Therapy by Margaret Nevett. I’ve long appreciated nature’s restorative powers, but I didn’t realize there is a recognized designation  for Horticultural Therapists. The Canadian Horticultural Therapy Association applies therapeutic horticulture to improve cognitive, physical, social, emotional and spiritual wellbeing, and brings their science to long-term care facilities, psychiatric hospitals and prisons. They are looking at ways to measure the results of horticultural therapy so institutions make it a practice to invest in programs.

Margaret mentioned a few books that are now on my reading list: 

The Nature Principle, by Richard Louve (2011) 
“The future will belong to the nature-smart—those individuals, families, businesses, and political leaders who develop a deeper understanding of the transformative power of the natural world and who balance the virtual with the real. The more high-tech we become, the more nature we need.”
—Richard Louv
Your Brain on Nature, by Eva Selhub and Alan Logan 
“Recent studies employing land-use data and satellite technology have reported that access to green space within a kilometre of one's residence is associated with improved mental health. Indeed, large population studies show that those with the least green space within one kilometre of home have a 25 per cent greater risk of depression and a 30 per cent higher risk of an anxiety disorder. Multiple studies from Japan show spending time in forests can lower stress, improve mental outlook, and lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol. Separate studies have shown similar cognitive-enhancing effects of short periods spent in natural settings. Spending just 20 minutes in vegetation-rich nature has been shown to improve vitality. Given that vitality is defined in psychological lexicon as emotional strength in the face of internal and external oppositions, and living life with enthusiasm and zest, the implications for personal and planetary health are enormous.”

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