The Technical Side of Green

Now for a little detour from my usual posts to a topic from my professional website on the benefits of viewing greenery in the landscape.  Be sure to take in some natural plantings this Winter wherever you are.  What evergreen trees and bushes are still leafed out or putting on a show from their peeling bark or knotty branches of interest?  Subtle hues of beige and cream, dark brown even red can pop against a fresh snowfall, glisten when covered in layers of ice.  Taking a moment to capture these scenes is good for us!

Here’s my article published this month in the Allen County Master Gardener newsletter and at Two Step Solutions.  Enjoy!

boy, under a tree, child, reading, book, green spaces, nature, benefits, viewing, attention

The Technical Side of Green

By Julie H, Advanced Master Gardener

There probably isn’t a person big or small that doesn’t like the view of a lush countryside, bubbling brook, or vibrancy of the Fall colors in the Midwest to brighten his or her day. “Natural elements grab and hold our attention in effortless ways, even in urban settings,” and this has a profound beneficial effect on us according to research by Dr. William Sullivan, Professor and Head of the Department of Landscape Architecture at University of Illinois.

In his book chapter* entitled, “In Search of a Clear Head,” William Sullivan shares research supporting the premise that:

It is clear that being in or looking onto a green space can improve people’s ability to focus their attention. But is the effect of green space on attention useful to a variety of people under a variety of circumstances? The evidence shows that a wide range of people benefit from exposure to green spaces. Studies have demonstrated links between green spaces and higher performance on attentional tasks in public housing residents, AIDS caregivers, cancer patients, college students, prairie restoration volunteers, and employees of large organizations.

Green spaces help us to recover from mental fatigue, help us make better decisions, and behave with less irritability. Simply put for our homes, work, schools, and communities:

We need nature at every doorstep!

Further, the more senses that are engaged, generally the more stress reduction occurs as well. In one study, students looking out a classroom window onto a natural space had the power to improve test accuracy TENFOLD! So why are we sending students into windowless classrooms? This is something important to think about as we craft study and workspaces at home and in our communities.

So you might ask if these benefits would include an adult playing golf? A child engaged in athletic team sports? “Yes” for the golf although probably more from the exercise than the putting “greens,” and “No” for outdoor sports. Although the playing field may be a green space and it is usually good to be outdoors, the benefits are better during unstructured activities. Better examples would include walking in display gardens (!), growing a few vegetables, viewing natural waterways, and even observing animals in their native habitats. Taking a walk outside is generally a good idea for many reasons yet in another study, only students who walked in an arboretum showed statistically better test scores than ones who walked in the downtown area of their college town.**

To boost the restorative benefits of everyday contact with gardens and green spaces, view and actively engage in those spaces around you. Such is the heart of the Master Gardener (and other community horticulture, 4H, gardening) programs isn’t it? Engaging the public in educational, exploratory, and experiential gardening activities is the fun and heart of what we do as Master Gardeners for persons young and old. A little “dose of nature” is a great low-tech idea for all of us.

*Fostering Reasonableness: Supportive Environments for Bringing Out Our Best; Edited by Rachel Kaplan and Avik Basu.

**Based upon William Sullivan’s lecture entitled “Attention Restoration” presented at Gardens that Heal: A Prescription for Wellness; Chicago Botanical Garden, 5.10.17.

 

Progress not Perfection

All it took was one hard drug (the prescription variety) and suddenly I can function a few more hours each day.  PRAISE THE LORD!

First up:  finish cleaning the house to keep the risk for exposures down.  Dust/mold/smells can trigger significant sickness if I don’t so gratefully I got it done today.

Second:  keep up with scheduled treatments and keep trying to add in items that are recommended for me.

Third:  organize medications, oils, supplements, and medical supplies that have spilled over to various locations in our home.  Prepare items to donate that are no longer needed.

Fourth:  begin the next filing projects needed to gather our tax records.

Fifth:  prepare tax records for filing with our accountant.

For the first time in a very long time, I am making progress a “To Do” list.  Lord willing tomorrow I will dig into number four.  Dang this feels good!

God created our world with a masterful order, hierarchy, time table, and purpose all to bring Him glory.  He knows and sees and orchestrates and cares for every minute detail of life as we know it.  We get to see His handiwork:  look closely and you will find it as nature wakes up again this Spring.  We get to participate in the majesty of life as His children whom He dearly loves.  While we will never duplicate the perfect order of the stuff and events of our lives, perfection is not our calling (it’s His!).  So the stuff stacked neatly on our microwave instead of the kitchen counter is just alright with me.  Perhaps we would agree that our lives do simply work better when things are cleaner and neater? 

Lift up your eyes on high And see who has created these stars, The One who leads forth their host by number, He calls them all by name; Because of the greatness of His might and the strength of His power, Not one of them is missing.  Isaiah 40:26

Perhaps then I will submit my wittle accomplishments today to the Lord as alms of worship and thanksgiving for the gains He has granted in my health.  I am making progress in a perfect path created by my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  And that is all it took to make some sense of my world on a Sunday.

Let’s add a little encouragement, a little promise also from Isaiah 40 for those who are weary this night:

31 but those who hope in the Lord
    will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
    they will run and not grow weary,
    they will walk and not be faint.

Isn’t that just wonderful Gentle Reader?  JJ