I've written here many times about the positive effects of spending time in nature - because it is a truth I keep rediscovering! I also wrote an article for ProHealth, The Restorative Power of Nature, that includes the research on the benefits (both physical and mental) of spending time in nature and how YOU can manage more time in nature, even if you are severely limited by your illness - even if you can't go outside! My article seems to have gotten missed when ProHealth redesigned their website recently, but you can read the full text at the link, in a previous blog post.
This past week, we spent almost all of our time outdoors, since we were camping, and both campgrounds we visited were mostly quiet (we did get some rowdy neighbors one night!). We stayed at Clarence Fahnestock State Park in New York's Hudson River Valley - a huge eye-opener for us! We'd never visited this beautiful region before, and we were stunned by how picturesque and undeveloped the Hudson River is (north of NYC). Our second stop was at North-South Lake in the Catskills, which is so far up into the mountains and remote that there was no cell service for miles!
|Best part of camping - reading by the campfire|
|View of the Hudson River from Walkway Over the Hudson in Poughkeepsie, NY|
|View of the Hudson River from an overlook (West Point is downriver on the other side)|
|Breath-taking view of the surrounding landscape from an overlook in the Catskills (can see 4 states!)|
|North-South Lake at sunset - perfect peace|
The other way to experience nature is in a smaller sense, up close and personal. Listening to bird song, crickets, and the wind in the trees brings instant calm and allows you to slow down and tune in to the natural world around you. When we are camping, we notice everything around us - wildlife, plants and trees, blue sky and clouds, and the star-filled sky at night. Although we notice a lot when hiking or even just sitting around our campfire, we both find that kayaking is one of the most peaceful, nature-soaked things to do. Floating out on a calm lake with nothing around but nature makes you notice the birds flying by, reflections in the water, cloud patterns above, and the flora and fauna both in the water and on the surrounding shores. It provides a perfect calm, especially at the end of the day. if you can't manage kayaking yourself (I can now, after treating OI), ask a friend or family member to take you out in a tandem (for 2) kayak, canoe, or other boat.
|Floating on the lake at dusk, soaking in the peace & tranquility|
|First signs of fall color|
|Water lily and lily pads|
|A duck friend floating by|
If you think you can't enjoy any of this...you can! First, check out my tips for Camping and Enjoying the Outdoors with ME/CFS, based on our almost two decades of continuing our outdoor time in spite of my illness (when our sons were younger, three of us had ME/CFS, but we never gave up our camping traditions). There are lots of ways to accommodate your limits so that you can enjoy time outdoors. And, you can also do what we did and work to improve your condition so that you can do even more outdoors. Here is a summary of the treatments that have been most effective for me and my sons over the years, allowing us to be more active and feel better, with fewer crashes.
And, as I explain in that ProHealth article above, even if you are so severely affected that you can not leave your home, you can still enjoy the benefits of nature. On my bad days, I lie in a zero-gravity chair out on my back deck or porch. Leave the electronics inside and just tune in to what you can see, hear, and smell around you. The physical and emotional benefits are real. Even if you can't go outdoors, studies show similar physiological benefits from looking out a window (open, if possible, so you can also listen, but through glass works, too), or...just looking at photos of nature on a screen has similar benefits! So, I hope you have enjoyed the photos I included here (click any of them to enlarge). You can also try this playlist from TED called Sounds of the Wild, a collection of talks filled with pictures and sounds of nature. This TED Talk, Nature. Beauty. Gratitude. includes gorgeous nature photography. And this TED playlist, Reconnect with Nature! provides lots of inspiration on ways to enjoy nature, along with more beautiful photographs.
We are back from our trip now, reconnected to the world (and with 500 unread e-mails waiting for me!), but this morning, I am writing this in my reclining chair out on our porch, listening to the sounds of the birds and the breeze through the surrounding trees. Give it a try - even just 10 minutes in nature (or looking at nature!) will make a difference in your life. I am newly committed to getting outdoors every day, even if it's just to my back deck.
|My back deck provides close-by nature (but leave the laptop inside!)|