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.

 

Torture, water-boarding, and more: Part 1

balance-testing

These 3-part posts are not for the faint of heart.

I wish that I was not writing them.

This was my reality just 24 hours ago and it bears recording for future reference.

A true miracle usually starts with a hell-of-a-story.  So here it is, Part 1:

Many of you gracious, Gentle Readers know that I have been battling a serious illness for just over 4 years.  What began as an acute, viral hepatitis became the introduction of an ongoing drama that has now included (alleged) Chronic Lyme disease, mercury toxicity, poisoning from root-canaled teeth, Stage 2 Candida infection and Chronic Inflammatory Response Syndrome (CIRS) including a biotoxin illness.  The most wretched of the myriad of symptoms continues to be daily convulsive episodes.  And for the last 2 1/2 of these 4 years those episodes range from 2 to 10 hours per day rendering me useless for a bigger chunk of daily living.  (See this video for a sample.)  Currently there is no end in sight.

My toe clips failed and I fell off my bike on August 23rd of this past year causing a Closed Head Injury with Concussion.  While my baseline functioning was only mildly affected, the orthopedic and neurologic impacts were measurable.  I hit my left shoulder, elbow, wrist, knee and side of my head on the pavement.  Within the next few weeks I received chiropractic and physical therapies then was referred to “The Balance Center” to assess ongoing dizziness, lightheadedness, ringing in my ears, etc.  I pleaded with my Doctor to delay the 3 1/2 hour test procedures due to the severity of the convulsive episodes and the fact that the acute symptoms had already diminished.  He agreed and we delayed it one month to allow some additional time to heal.

The Balance Center had to get special permission to schedule the appointment after I mentioned “seizures,” for fear that I would not be able to tolerate the test procedures.  Wise concerns.  My Doctor approved their request to proceed!  When the day got nearer I intervened and delayed it another month to October.  My Doctor understood my reasoning back then and pressed for me to complete the assessment as scheduled this past week.  He stated that there still could be some vestibular issues contributing to the convulsive episodes and lingering symptoms noted above although the latter had improved.

I knew I was doomed.  Having worked in occupational therapy for over 3 decades until disabled by this wretched illness, I knew about vestibular testing and rehabilitation.  I had attended a weekend training for it many years ago and referred my home health patients to this very clinic!  Now it was my turn.  I also knew that test devices with moving parts that cause you to lose your balance, spin you around, prompt you to move your eyes rapidly and the like would be hell for me.  I did not think I would be able to complete most of it.  That is exactly what happened:  the first appointment in October had ended after the audiology test portion: a simple hearing test in a quiet, sound-proof booth!  When the audiologist entered the room to review the results after I had just stopped seizing, her perfume sent me into more violent episodes.  It took a long time to recover from everything as I sat in a cold chair in a long hallway, staff and patients busily walking by . . .

They did the best they could with my atypical “case” perhaps.  However, the room with the sound-proof booth was already booked for the next patient and the schedule, the schedule, THE SCHEDULE must go on don’t you know?  Such is life in modern medicine these days.  It was a very desolate feeling to sit there with my unsupported head banging around with no where to lie down to minimize injury.  Gratefully the technician was very nice as she escorted me to my “recovery chair,” and later offered to reschedule me.  Reluctantly we settled upon the last day of the year:  that was yesterday.

See Part 2 for the rest of the story . . .