At any and every age, taking care of the health of your brain should be priority number one. And yet so many of us forget to care for this most vital organ. We spend our days in a constant state of stimulation overload, analyzing information, processing, and critically-thinking in our day-to-day, without wondering if there’s a more considerable toll we are taking on the health of our brains. Studies are finding that a constant state of critical thinking does weigh heavily on us, and can, over time, lead to much more significant health problems. But thankfully, nature has an easy solution for us, and that solution is NATURE! By simply going outside and embracing the simplicity of the outdoors, we can do a wealth of good things for our brains!
First, the bad: what does all of this analyzing and processing do to our brains over time? Studies show that a brain on high alert with no time for a break is subject to high levels of stress. This stress can do any number of bad things for us – it can raise our blood pressure, cause muscle tension, affect our moods, and more. But what’s probably worst of all is that prolonged stress can cause inflammation to the brain which is linked to diseases like dementia. That’s pretty bad, and absolutely something you want to try and avoid at all costs no matter what age you are.
So how do you give rest to a mind in motion? Go outside! The great outdoors is proven to have a host of calming, reviving effects for our bodily health, emotional well-being, and for that most precious of organs that just won’t quit! When we step outside, our genetic program tells us to relax, and to take it easy (we can’t help it, it’s in our DNA!). Prolonged time outdoors is proven to give us a heightened feeling of contentment, reduced risk of depression, reduced feelings of anger or sadness, and reduced risk of anxiety.
Unfortunately for some of us, getting outside is easier said than done. Mobility and access can be an issue, so spending quality time outside might not always be a viable option. If you have a dedicated in-home caregiver (like one of the fine and talented folks at Angels On Call), they can help you find ways to get the most of whatever outdoor time is available to you. Here are some helpful tips to get the two of you going:
Try to get outside for a walk whenever you can. If you’re able to get out and take walks with your caregiver, absolutely do it! Even if the weather is not perfect, let your caregiver hold the umbrella (that’s what they’re there for!). Any time spent outdoors is better than no time at all.
Make use of a patio, porch, or deck whenever possible. If you’ve got access to a patio or porch, use it! Let your caregiver bring meals to you on the deck, or enjoy reading or writing letters from the comfort of a patio. The sunshine, the fresh air, the natural sounds of the outdoors: all will have calming, healing effects, even if you’re not walking out and about.
Bring nature in. Perhaps you live in an apartment or a place where the outdoors just isn’t very accessible to you. That’s okay! You can bring the outdoors in. Invest in some houseplants to clear the air indoors, or consider adopting a pet! Research shows that these aspects of the natural world (even when brought inside) help us reconnect with nature and bring an overall sense of well-being. Further, having something to care for (be it a cat, a goldfish, or even just an indoor fern) can bring a sense of purpose. Let your in-home care provider help you decide how best to bring the outdoors in, and make sure you discuss with them the logistics of having a pet before adopting one.
Your in-home care provider is here for you to help take care of all aspects of your well-being, and that definitely includes your brain. So talk to them about these ways to get back in touch with nature so that you can experience the calming, restful, and revitalizing effects that the outdoors has on your brain.