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Science Says Walking In Nature Changes The Brain

Science Says Walking In Nature Changes The Brain

Want to live a happier life and have a more productive work day? Take the scenic route to work. The concrete commute that most city dwellers experience on the daily may be having a larger impact on the psyche than you think. Beyond the concrete jungle that we more and more fail to escape on a regular basis exists an environment that may help you combat stress, depression, and anxiety.

Walking In Nature Helps Depression And Anxiety

The isolation of being locked up in offices and high rise condominiums is being linked to psychological disorders including depression, anxiety and a short attention span at work. New York Times article, How Nature Changes the Brain by Gretchen Reynolds, found that people who live in cities spend more time ‘brooding’, a term meaning a renumeration of thoughts in your mind as to what is wrong with yourself and your life. The study compared those who lived in high density urban settings to those who had more exposure to greenery and trees.

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Walking In Nature Improves Your Attention and Focus

So what if you don’t have a park on the route to work or cannot give up the highway commute? There is still hope. The Journal of Environmental Psychology suggests that even small mental breaks viewing nature can help aid off psychological issues such as reduced attention span. The study looked at subjects that viewed either concrete or green spaces and found that the ones who viewed the natural environment made less errors and were more consistent responding to given tasks. Living and working surrounded by thousands of people and concrete drains your mental resources that are critical for attention. While in opposition, viewing trees, parks, and green spaces on a regular basis, helps create a more calm and active mind.

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Viewing Nature Helps Your Mind Escape Everyday Concerns

So how does nature help with depression and anxious feelings and give us a greater sense of focus? From a logical perspective it makes sense that being surrounded by thousands of people, heavy traffic, and concrete would make us feel more anxious, and unhappy. But why would nature have such a large effect on our brains? Nature gives the brain a sense of calmness and peace. The presence of trees, water, and open spaces of greenery transitions the mind into feeling an escapement from everyday concerns. It brings the simplicity back into life. Nature literally changes the brain.

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And not only are the people who have more exposure to natural settings mentally healthier, but they also enjoy a higher quality of physical health as well. A convincing example in the New Yorker, What a Tree is Worth, by Alex Hutchinson,  showed that patients given hospital rooms that looked over spaces with trees as opposed to a brick wall, recovered faster. In fact , researchers are discovering that surrounding yourself with nature can be one of the most powerful stress-relievers out there.

As unlikely as it is to take a twenty minute detour for a scenic route or to move to a park surrounded area, there are small changes that you can implement into your life today. Change your desktop background to outdoor scenery or hang visual art of the sky and ocean on your wall. Spend more of your breaks outside, plan more trips to the park or runs along the water. Vote in favour of green roofs, and of course make an effort to get into nature and enjoy it. We tend to complicate the cures for anxiety and depression when in fact being in a calm and natural environment may just be what you need.

Featured photo credit: A Couple Walking in a Park via flickr.com

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Last Updated on October 15, 2018

Why Am I So Tired? 10 Reasons You’re Extremely Tired And How to Fix It

Why Am I So Tired? 10 Reasons You’re Extremely Tired And How to Fix It

“Why am I so tired?” is a question that people ask themselves pretty frequently. Everyone gets tired at one point or another, particularly after something like an illness, a long night up with a sick child, or a busy week at work. When tiredness is persistent, however — when you feel tired as soon as you wake up in morning or when sleep doesn’t seem to help, no matter how much rest you get— it may often indicate a deeper, underlying problem.

While there are a lot of possible reasons for tiredness, here’re some of the most common causes of fatigue:

1. Dehydration

If you want to boost your energy levels, first check whether you are dehydrated. The human brain is 85% water, and needs to maintain this level in order to perform its essential functions.

If you fail to drink enough water, the brain extracts fluids from your blood to compensate for the deficit. As a result, the oxygen levels in your blood drop, reducing the amount of energising oxygen available to your organs and tissues. Fatigue and sleepiness set in rapidly, leaving you more vulnerable to the 2 pm post-lunch crash that many of us experience.

You cannot cure this crash with caffeine – the only long-term, effective solution is to drink hydrating fluids throughout the day.

2. Lack Of Exercise

A workout will surely leave you feeling even more tired, right? Wrong! As counterintuitive as it may sound, physical activities have an energizing effect. Moving your body releases endorphins, increases your heart rate, and boosts your concentration.

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Try to fit in at least 30 minutes of medium-intensity exercise every day. It’s easiest if you can make this part of our everyday routine, either as soon as you wake up or right after work.

3. A Poor Diet

The food you eat has a direct impact on sleep quality and the amount of rest you get every night. For maximum energy, stick to protein, slow-release carbohydrates, and a moderate amount of healthy (unsaturated) fats. The majority of your food should be plant-based, high in fiber, and low in sugar. These choices will prevent blood sugar fluctuations, which can leave you feeling exhausted.

An easy way to make sure you stick to a good diet is through meal preparation. It’s easy to just get take-out when you’re tired after work, but if you have a meal ready for you in the fridge, you’ll be less tempted by pizza or cheese.

Find out more about healthy meal prep here: 10 Meal Planning Apps You Need To Have To Get Healthier Easily

4. Skipping Breakfast

Physician Dr. Nerina Ramlakhan advises that eating breakfast is key to maintaining a good level of energy throughout the day. When you eat breakfast, you are sending calming signals to the areas of the brain responsible for avoiding danger, along with those that instruct the body to conserve as much energy as possible.

Ingesting food signals to your brain that there is enough food available to ensure our survival. This encourages it to stay relaxed, which in turn, promotes restful sleep.

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Some great ideas for a healthy, filling, and make-ahead breakfasts include overnight oats, smoothies, and freezer-friendly breakfast burritos.

Or if meal-prepping isn’t your think, stock up on easy but healthy breakfast foods like multigrain cereal, yogurt, and fruit: 20 Healthy Breakfast Choices That Will Save You Time

5. Poor Quality Of Sleep

We all know that it’s important to wind down a couple of hours before bed. But did you know that it’s what you do throughout the day that promotes good-quality sleep? It’s not just about the number of hours you sleep, but how restful and deep that sleep is.

TO feel rested, try to regulate your everyday routine to make your sleep deeper and better. Get up at a regular time in the morning to ensure that you get regular sunlight.

Eat nutritious foods in moderate amounts, and make sure you stay hydrated. Go to bed at the same time. And before bedtime, avoid screens that can give off harmful blue light and also keep you stimulated when you need to prepare for a restful night.

Read more about how to develop a routine that will get you better sleep: Poor Sleep Quality Comes from All the Things You Do Since Morning

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6. Sleep Apnea (A Person’s Airways Get Blocked off While They Are Asleep)

Sleep apnea is a common sleep disorder where a person’s airways get blocked off while they are asleep, causing their oxygen levels to drop while they are asleep. This often causes people to stop breathing at night and then to jerk themselves awake (this can happen over 30 times an hour).

Because of this, people with sleep apnea can feel short of breath and have low energy levels. Mouthpieces and other devices to aid in breathing as well as the use of a special breathing machine to keep oxygen levels in a safe zone.

If you feel tired all the time and think you might have sleep apnea, consulting with a doctor is important. Do a sleep study, as this can often reveal if there is an underlying problem causing your tiredness — and once a diagnosis is made, treatment to help you get your energy back begins.

7. Depression

Depression is the most common mental health disorder in the United States (and in many other countries of the world as well). It is marked by persistent feelings of sadness or unhappiness but has physical symptoms, too. Apart from fatigue, people may also experience changes in sleeping and eating habits and difficulty concentrating.

Treatment can often center on anti-depressants, counselling and lifestyle changes like stress management to help manage this condition. You can take a look at these 15 Ways To Overcome Depression And Sadness.

Many people also benefit from activities like yoga and meditation, which help regulate both the body and mind.

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8. Hypothyroidism

If a person has hypothyroidism, their thyroid gland does not produce adequate levels of these important hormones— and the result can be a persistent and unrelenting fatigue, even if someone is getting enough sleep. Other common symptoms of this disorder include mood swings, weight gain and feeling cold all the time.

Fortunately, simple blood work can reveal if there is a problem and it can be treated with artificial thyroid hormone pills like Synthroid. Check here for signs of having a thyroid problem. If you suspect that you might have hypothyroidism, talk to your doctor.

9. Anemia

People with anemia are not able to make enough red blood cells to transport oxygen throughout the their bodies. This is often due to a lack of nutrients like iron or B-12 and can be caused by problems such as heavy periods, bleeding in the digestive tract or pregnancy (due to the increased demands of the growing baby).

However, in most cases, this can be resolved with treatments like changes in diet, iron supplements or B-12 shots.

While here are some drinks you can try to relieve symptoms of Anemia, it’s best to do a blood test and consult your doctor in case of any hidden medical conditions.

10. Cancer

While you shouldn’t be freaking out about cancer just because you are tired, it is a fact that fatigue is one of the symptoms of cancer. Other common symptoms can include unexplained weight loss and the presence of palpable lumps or growths. This disease is marked by the abnormal and uncontrolled growth of cells that can do damage to surround tissues and possibly spread to other parts of the body.

Diagnosis is usually by biopsy and treatment often focusses on radiation, chemotherapy or surgery— and generally when a diagnosis is made early, the outcomes for the patient are better.

Featured photo credit: Lily Banse via unsplash.com

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