Running and the benefits of being outdoors.

Sunday, and its all blue skies outside couldn’t be nicer weather to be honest. Of course still winter and cold (-10 this morning) but I cannot wait till I will be out running in a couple of hours. Till then I am trying my best to finish a psychology assignment involving SPSS and Anova. I really enjoyed SPSS to begin with, but now it is getting a bit more complicated and I must admit that I am a tad confused. Hopefully it will be crystal clear after this assignment. I often find that I tend to learn and develop the most during assignment weeks. I suppose it is because my brains had enough time process all the information and once sat down and re-reading everything fall into place. Anyway, for the time being I’m a bit stuck and waiting for my much needed ‘light bulb moment’ to appear, those of you that are students will know exactly what I mean!

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Anyway, in a couple of hours I will gear up warm and head off out in the sunshine for 40 minutes of rejuvenating running therapy. Since my last post I have only had to run at the gym once, and to be perfectly honest I hope that I wont have to go back and do it again! As I have stated before, I love the gym for strength training – just not for running. I need the fresh air, greenery and the immense sensation of complete freedom when I gaze across the Swabian alps. My psychology studies have recently been going over the concept of restorative environments – a place or situation where I as an individual am able to recover baseline levels of functional resources and capabilities that may have been lessened by stress or under-stimulation. Simply said; one way for me to restore those levels is to spend time outdoors in nature, and it is my reason for always running outdoors if it is possible.

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Psychological research suggest that some places indeed are better for ones well-being such as natural environments and natural aesthetics. Evidence for this have been provided by many including Roger Ulrich (1983) who investigated how hospital patients recovery was affected by whether or not they had a window which looked out on  a natural view. Results indicated that this was the case, showing faster recovery and increased ability to deal with pain when exposed to natural environments. Greenery matters folks, and nature truly matters to us as human beings. Our bodies does not only need to move to remain healthy our mind and body also reacts to our environment its shapes, colours, textures and sounds. If we constantly are surrounded by ‘non natural’ cold environments our bodies react accordingly and stress levels may increase.

To ease stress levels for people living in a city, public parks were constructed as a source of relaxation from the busy city life and an opportunity to reconnect with natural settings. To me, this is where ‘ecopsychology’ really gets my juices flowing, I am so fascinated by how our brain reacts to nature and how healing it can be to spend some time outdoors. This is yet another reason to why many medical doctors and psychiatrists ordinate rest and outdoors activities instead and/or in combination with anti depressants. Nature heals, nature is natural and of great importance for our mental health. All of this knowledge and understanding does serve as a great motivation to spend more time outdoors, to hike, run and enjoy the beautiful world we live in. Do you feel the same or do you prefer and find comfort in truly urban environments, and if so – why do you think that is the case?

Keen to learn more about restorative environments?

Roger Ulrich – Green is good for you  ←
Ulrich, R. S. (1983) ‘Aesthetic and affective response to natural environment‘, in Altman, I. and Wohlwill, J. F. (eds) Behaviour and the Natural Environment, New York, Plenum Publishing, pp. 85-126. You can buy the book here!
Mind.org.uk – A new green agenda for mental health  ←
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