“A bad day fishing is better than a good day in the office.”
My father used to tell me this on almost every fishing trip (we are not a family of great fishermen). He would also reference this on many other occasions when things seemed to go poorly when we spent time outside. While outliers such as mosquitoes or rain can sometimes put a damper on time spent outdoors, it is hard to consider time spent outdoors as time wasted. What my father had been trying to point out to me over the years was that time spent outside in nature should be savored. There are countless ways to spend time in nature and there are many studies showing the “hows” and “whys” behind the positivity you may feel.
Gatesleben & Andrews ran a study in 2013 which questioned the characteristics of the nature landscapes and how changes in characteristics affected the emotional outcomes. By varying “refuge and prospect” or openness and hiding places, the study was able to track what types of nature provided the biggest perceived sense of safety.
Safety is a foundational concern in the therapeutic relationship, and it is something that one should always be able to find with their therapist. While most therapy practices may not be able to provide this sense of safety by walking through the park during session, there are many who are deciding to use Walk and Talk Therapy as an intervention (McKinney, 2013). This is not yet an evidence-based practice, but there seems to be momentum in the practice. Walk and Talk Therapy is self-defining; clients and therapists walk while holding their therapy sessions. The benefits of exercise and nature can be helpful in working through difficult concerns and in building a sense of safety.
Dr. Elizabeth Nisbet, with the Trent University Psychology Department, co-authored an article about the physical and mental benefits of spending time in nature. This “green space” time can help with “heart rate variability, levels of cortisol the presence of anti-cancer proteins and the natural killer-cell activity important for immune functioning.” Her study further worked to tie “green space” time and walks with an increase in problem solving abilities and a decrease in depressive symptoms.
Whether the Iowa seasons throw rain, snow or sunshine your way, I urge you to try and spend time outside. Explore local nature preserves, join enthusiast groups, or just go to the park! Being outside is good for you physically and emotionally, so get out there and enjoy it!
Gatersleben, B., & Andrews, M. (2013). When walking in nature is not restorative—The role of prospect and refuge. Health & Place, 20, 91–101. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.healthplace.2013.01.001
McKinney, B. L. (2013). Therapist’s perceptions of walk and talk therapy: A grounded study. Dissertation Abstracts International Section A: Humanities and Social Sciences. ProQuest Information & Learning. Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=psyh&AN=2013-99010- 151&site=ehost-live&scope=site
Niessl, M. (2016). Red Canoe Boat on Body of Water. Retrieved from https://unsplash.com/photos/x_gyAYzyeQA
Nisbet, E., & Lem, M. (2015). Prescribing a Dose of Nature. Alternatives Journal (AJ) - Canada’s Environmental Voice, 41(2), 36–39. Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=ehh&AN=102421915&site=ehos t-live&scope=site