A Mind is a Terrible Thing to Waste

Posted on 15. Jun, 2017 by in Grays Corner, Recent News

 

A Mind is a Terrible Thing to Waste

Gray Stanback

For many people, nature is seemingly superfluous. They spend much of their lives in the climate-controlled comfort of their homes, surrounded by computers and other electronic machines, and only rarely venturing out into true wilderness. Even people who live in suburbs, as opposed to cities, often have this sort of lifestyle, with very little exposure to the natural world that surrounds them. And, as it turns out, this is unhealthy.

Frequent and prolonged exposure to nature is a key component of both a healthy body and a healthy mind.  Even something as simple as a walk in the nearest park or a day watching birds in one’s own yard can have notable beneficial effects on the way one sees the world around themselves.

Exposure to nature can result in an overall more balanced and well-rounded view on the world and one’s role in it. This is not mere unscientific conjecture, it has actually been proven repeatedly that people who are allowed exposure to the natural world are more likely to recover quickly from depression, anxiety and other mental disorders. In fact, many doctors and psychologists recommend spending more time outdoors to help recover from these conditions.

Unfortunately, many people nowadays are less willing than before to see it that way. They feel as though all of their needs are met by the technology in their own homes, and are less likely to venture outside for the sake of pleasure than people in past years were. Is it any coincidence that rates of anxiety among young adults—the demographic for which this is particularly true—are at an all-time high?

So the question now becomes, what can we do for people who either can’t afford to go out in nature, or simply don’t have the time to? In Davidson, we are fortunate enough to have series of forested bicycle trails—the greenways—that allow citizens to take long walks and bike rides in a “green” surrounding. Many Davidson homeowners have also converted their yards into Backyard Wildlife Habitats, so that all they need to do to experience the wonders of nature is step outside their door.

Right now, the enjoyment of the outdoors and nature is limited to the more affluent, “outdoorsy” people, while those who are less fortunate must be content to remain in their homes and towns. In other words, this has created a world where the ability to experience nature is a luxury. This is both unsustainable and dangerous. The benefits of being outdoors should be enjoyed by everyone, not just those who have the ability to choose.

What impact does this have on people’s minds and bodies? As mentioned before, exposure to nature has a calming, mindful effect. It is also, however, physically healthy. The more time people spend outdoors, after all, the less time they will spend seated in one spot and not moving around. If one took a mile round-trip walk in the woods every other day, he or she could expect to see significant changes for the better in his or her physical fitness.

Davidson is a town that is uniquely built to accommodate a population of nature-lovers. The greenways, the gardens, the town green, the sidewalks—all of these are designed for people who spend a great deal of time walking about outside their homes. For their sake, the sake of their friends and family, and the sake of the natural environment of Davidson, I hope that they continue to do that.