Harnessing Nature to Improve Your Brain Health

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Harnessing Nature to Improve Your Brain Health

Social isolation is a necessary evil in 2020; making creative thinking more important than ever as we move into an uncertain future. To help combat the boredom (and the subsequent anxiety) that comes with social distancing; we need to think outside the box. 

Numerous studies suggest that the great outdoors has positive effects on the brain. In 2020 and beyond, nature can help elevate your mental functioning to the next level. The benefits of harnessing nature don’t stop with improved brain function. By spending more time outdoors; you’ll become more in tune with the natural world, further expanding your cognitive horizons. Let us take a look at the power of harnessing nature to improve your brain health.

The Benefits of Being Outside

Once it became clear that the 2020 global pandemic would continue to alter our lives into the foreseeable future; sharp-thinking minds across the world went to work. Humanity is increasingly viewing the outdoors as an effective means of gathering while also maintaining social distancing. For example, school districts across the U.S., like NYC public schools, are considering a move outdoors as an alternative to stuffy indoor classrooms, to better accommodate the 1.1 million students within the district. 

The long-term implications of the worldwide push into nature; are exciting and could indicate a global shift towards increased mental function. Spending time in nature has a lot of passive and active benefits; there’s plenty of science to back it up. For starters, you’re likely to see an uptick in both your mental and physical health after spending time outside. 

For many people, nature can even provide a much-needed immunity boost. Research supports the notion that nature can work in tandem with your body; to fight against a variety of health conditions. Including ADHD, cardiovascular disease, and obesity.

it’s in the realm of mental health where nature truly shows off its healing potential.

It’s common knowledge; that sunlight naturally promotes dopamine production. That’s just the beginning in regards to nature’s bounty. The neurotransmitter; dopamine, induces reward-driven and pleasure-seeking behaviours. In turn, keeping negative emotions such as depression and anxiety at bay.

Nature can allow you to better balance neurotransmitter levels, clearing the path towards greater cognitive functioning! To reap the strongest benefit, listen to your body, and follow your instincts. Does running on the beach invigorate your body and mind? Perhaps you feel most alive on a mountain summit; or while traversing dynamic river rapids. No matter the specific aspects of nature that fuel your fire. Spending time in your favourite outdoor spaces; is one of the simplest ways to improve your brain health, over the long term. 

Nature’s Role in Medicine

Today’s knowledge-seekers are part of a legacy that stretches back to the early days of civilization. Our ancient ancestors had no choice but to utilize nature’s elements, in every aspect of life. Trees and stones became walls, and countless forests were razed to make way for agricultural crops. And in the realm of healing and health, nature, fortunately, proved to be abundant. 

Humanity’s relationship with medicinal plants stretches deep into the past. In fact, the first recorded instance of nature as medicine dates back about 5000 years.

According to a 2012 Pharmacognosy Reviews article, “the oldest written evidence of medicinal plants’ usage for preparation of drugs has been found on a Sumerian clay slab from Nagpur.” Twelve distinct recipes, containing some 250 herbal and plant ingredients, were recorded on the slab. Many of the included plants, such as poppy and mandrake, are used in a medicinal capacity to this day. 

Unlike our ancient ancestors, modern humans have a distinct advantage when it comes to harnessing the natural world. The internet gives us access to data collected over the entirety of civilization. Our methods of extraction have been refined over the years for optimal efficiency; we better understand the limits of the natural world. 

Identifying the Limitations of Nature

When turning to the natural world for health purposes. It’s imperative that you consider the myriad ways in which nature can adversely affect your brain and body. As the old idiom goes, you can indeed have too much of a good thing.

Take sunlight, for example: While the Vitamin D sourced from sunlight is an effective mood booster, excessive exposure to the sun’s UV rays can have detrimental health effects. Long-term sunlight exposure is associated with various cancers, immune suppression, and skin-related disorders, and can even reduce your lifespan. For maximum mood-elevating effect, make sure to limit your time spent in direct sun.

When in nature, preparation is key. When turning to nature for a cognitive boost, make sure that you’re always ready for the unexpected; from sudden storms to a trail accident that requires medical attention. No matter where your backcountry adventure takes you, staying safe is essentially a no-brainer. Further, it gives you the opportunity to learn something new, and add to your arsenal of useful knowledge. 

To best ensure your personal safety in the great outdoors, avoid solo trips. There’s power in numbers. You’ll also want to have at least foundational knowledge of first aid procedures, and have a well-stocked kit on hand. Wilderness first aid kits should be tailored to your environment; also include several days’ supply of any prescription medications you take. 

Key Takeaways

In a time when creative thinking is crucial to the future of humanity, we need all hands on deck. At the individual, community and global levels. Your brain’s health is of paramount importance; now and into the foreseeable future, post-pandemic. Like the great civilizations of the past; including the forward-thinking Sumerians. Humanity needs only to look towards nature to identify countless possible health applications; from anxiety relief to improved memory and mood. 

When it comes to your brain health, don’t dismiss the benefits of the natural world. While the concept of nature isn’t as tangible as a bottle of supplements; nature has helped fuel and enhance the cognitive function of humans across history. In a post-COVID world, harnessing nature can become your secret weapon towards top-tier brain health. 

Featured image: Unsplash

Adrian Johansen writes to share her knowledge with the world.

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