It’s spring; time to turn on the green

This is the time of year when nature returns to green. I look out the window and realize the trees slowly leafing out day by day make it more difficult for me to see the pond through the woods.

The green underbrush fluffs out and fills the spaces of the forest floor. Ferns unroll their green selves into life. Contrasting green hostas spread open like the palms of hands in worship. Almost overnight a bright greenness permeates the dull winter grass.

After months of muted color this green re-leafing is a welcome relief.

I read the headline “Why Living Around Nature Could Make You Live Longer” in the Washington Post online and wonder why anyone would question it. Isn’t it kind of a no-brainer?

I figure sometimes people need science to assure them, that somehow their natural wisdom is validated by people in laboratory coats with letters after their names. I am curious, as well. Maybe I need some validation, too.

I look over the accompanying article as well as some other sources on the same topic and discover that there is indeed scientific evidence that nature is healthy for humans.

The Nurses Health Study is a long-term project conducted by Harvard which has been collecting health information on 100,000 female registered nurses since 1976. A new paper compiled data from 2000 to 2008 looking for any deaths that occurred and their causes.

Researchers then used satellite data to determine the amount of green space surrounding each person’s home during the study period. One of the results was that people who had the most vegetation within 800 feet of their homes had a 12 percent lower rate of mortality than those people who lived in the least green spaces. These were non-accidental deaths from cancer, respiratory disease and kidney disease.

It is interesting to note that it didn’t matter if it was a rural or urban setting as long as there there was the presence of vegetation. This seems to be a good argument for more city parks and greenways.

Green spaces often are in less polluted areas while plants contribute to filtering out pollutants in the air. Parks encourage people to get outside, to exercise and to interact with other people. These are all well-established paths to better health. Makes sense to me.

Other studies show that having quality landscaping and vegetation in and around where people work and study contributes positively to job and school performance as well as alleviating mental stress and illness.

One study shows that symptoms of Attention Deficient Disorder in children can be reduced by spending more time in green settings especially when doing stressful activities such as school work. Natural settings also seem to show positive results in the treatment of Alzheimer’s and dementia patients by reducing frustration and anxiousness.

But this is the 21st century, the era of technological solutions to problems. What about using “virtual” nature to achieve the same positive effects? Well, it turns out that has been tried and found wanting.

One study, for example, compared subjects’ heart rates after working in an office with windows, one without windows and one with a plasma TV “window.” the subjects’ heart rates were lower in the office with window while the windowless and TV window offices showed no benefit. However, other studies have shown some advantage from having nature scenes and living plants in hospital rooms.

One fact studies have shown again and again is the detrimental effects from spending too much time in front of those TV and computer screens that accost us throughout our day. Shut them down and go outdoors. The medical and science community as well as your own natural wisdom tells you it’s the right thing to do.

Come on, it’s spring. Turn off the screen and turn on the green.