Tag Archives: nature

Embracing the Beauty of Autumn: the health benefits of beauty and nature

This Autumn, I have become aware of the gift of beauty we are surrounded by as the trees burst into the colorful palette of crimson red, lime green yellow, sherbet orange. As I experience the beauty, I am reminded to stay present in the moment and appreciate the beauty that stands in front of me. It is so easy to drift off into thoughts of dread…uggh leaves to rake…cold weather coming…bare trees…etcetera. As it turns out, the Fall foliage show is a gift worthy of appreciation, so long as you can stay present in the moment and embrace the beauty that stands in front of you.

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Time in nature can be restorative. In research that was carried out in Japan, the group of people was sent to visit the forest and urban environments and to view forest and urban landscapes randomly for 3 days. Four times a day researchers monitored their cortisol levels (stress hormone), blood pressure and heart rate. It turns out, that when participants were in forest environments, all measures were lower and subjectively, they reported feeling more comfortable, soothed and refreshed after viewing forest landscapes.

As it turns out, the experience of beauty is one that stimulates the medial orbito frontal cortex (MoFC) of your brain. The frontal cortex of your brain houses your highest thinking centers. This is also the part of your brain that is activated while eliciting the relaxation response (ie. meditation, yoga, MBSR, etc.). According to neurology research by Tomohiro Ishizu of University College London, the MoFC area is activated when experiencing beauty, both visual and musical, on functional MRI (which is an imaging modality that allows us to see areas of the brain that are activated in real time) . The more intense the perception of beauty, the more the activation of the area.

Putting this research together, and of course the research on the health optimizing benefits of mindfulness and exercise, save yourself some green by giving yourself a truly restorative “spa walk” outside to embrace the autumn beauty. Come back home and curl up with cozy afghan and a hot cup of spicy herbal tea and suddenly, the doom and gloom of the Winter to come might not seem so overwhelming.

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© Regina Zopf MD 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Regina Zopf MD with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. Accessing this site means you agree to the disclaimer that can be read here.

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The Healing Space of Spring

I am so grateful for Spring’s finally undeniable arrival in the Washington DC area as I gaze upon one of my favorite “blossomplosions” of the year, the spring blooming Magnolia trees. The National Arboretum has a collection that allows the viewer to appreciate their gloriousness within an uninterrupted experience of nature.

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Surrounded by walls of magnolias, drenched in a subtle floral fragrance, with sounds of wood peckers and volleying calls of nearby song birds singing their songs of Spring, I am transported instantly into a world of beauty and, in my son’s words, “a land of magical trees”. My breath becomes free and easy and a smile unravels on my face and permeates through my being. Ahhhh, SPRING!

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I love this image. The flowers are presented so elegantly, like wine goblets arranging themselves as if to say, drink from me, there is plenty go around. I fully expect to tip one into my mouth and taste the sweetest wine I have ever enjoyed in the most beautiful surroundings.

Nature is my castle.

In relation to health, I am reminded of the work written by neuroscientist and physician Esther Sternberg, MD who studies the beneficial effects that healing spaces can have on our health and immune systems. She writes that healing spaces can more easily allow us to enter a state of mindfulness and calm which optimizes our body’s ability to heal.  See her speak here, or her TEDx Talk here and find her book on the health benefits of healing spaces here:

Get inspired this Spring, allow yourself to be immersed in the beauty that surrounds us. After all, it’s good for you!

© Regina Zopf MD 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Regina Zopf MD with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. Accessing this site means you agree to the disclaimer that can be read here.