Mindful Movement: Green Space Is Important For Mental Health4 Comments May 5, 2010 / Posted in Mindful Running, Mindfulness, The Running Mind
As someone who has run and walked with patients and friends for 35 years, this little article shared by Christine Messier brings out the fact that being in nature quickly brings a person to “present moment, beautiful moment.” What is interesting is that when one is in the present moment there is no cause and effect. It’s not the green space and it is the green space. It’s not the exercise and it is the exercise. It’s not being present and it is being present. In the present moment, one is observing and being. Thoughts are just thoughts that come and go. And being surrounded by the beauty of nature; and experiencing one’s feelings and one senses of, as George Sheehan would put it, one as being a good animal. Awake and fully present in the present moment. One with the world.
As the first Running Therapist trained by Tad Kostrubala, it is nice to know that the tradition of Running Therapy has been carried on by of group of psychiatrists and therapists in Germany. Since the early days, and learning the skills of a Running Therapist, I only run with friends and people who I am training to walk and run properly. Being out in nature and being out in public with a Running Therapist one only sees people walking or running. In those moments there is no mental illness. Only two people running, talking, laughing, crying, and playing together. And of course, the Running Therapist has learned that it is the walking and/or running along with the “Green space” that creates the healing.
Remember the word “therapist” comes from the Greek “theraps” which means to attend or listen to. Back in 400 BCE, the Aesculapian “theraps” would prepare the patient for their healing dream. The healing came from within not from without. It was only later that oracles, priests, physicians and others took on the role of healers to the wounded. The dialogue about Wounded Healers is for another time.
Just five minutes of exercise in a “green space” such as a park can boost mental health, researchers claim.
There is growing evidence that combining activities such as walking or cycling with nature boosts well-being.
In the latest analysis, UK researchers looked at evidence from 1,250 people in 10 studies and found fast improvements in mood and self-esteem.
The study in the Environmental Science and Technology journal suggested the strongest impact was on young people.
The research looked at many different outdoor activities including walking, gardening, cycling, fishing, boating, horse-riding and farming in locations such as a park, garden or nature trail.
The biggest effect was seen within just five minutes.
With longer periods of time exercising in a green environment, the positive effects were clearly apparent but were of a smaller magnitude, the study found.
Looking at men and women of different ages, the researchers found the health changes – physical and mental – were particularly strong in the young and the mentally-ill.
Green and blue
A bigger effect was seen with exercise in an area that also contained water – such as a lake or river.
Study leader Jules Pretty, a researcher at the University of Essex, said those who were generally inactive, or stressed, or with mental illness would probably benefit the most from “green exercise”.
We would like to see all doctors considering exercise as a treatment where appropriate
Paul Farmer, Mind
“Employers, for example, could encourage staff in stressful workplaces to take a short walk at lunchtime in the nearest park to improve mental health.”
He also said exercise programmes outdoors could benefit youth offenders.
“A challenge for policy makers is that policy recommendations on physical activity are easily stated but rarely adopted widely.”
Paul Farmer, chief executive of mental health charity Mind, said the research is yet further evidence that even a short period of green exercise can provide a low cost and drug-free therapy to help improve mental wellbeing.
“It’s important that people experiencing depression can be given the option of a range of treatments, and we would like to see all doctors considering exercise as a treatment where appropriate.”
Mind runs a grant scheme for local environmental projects to help people with mental illness get involved in outdoor activities.