Monday, April 22, 2019

Happy Earth Day and National Parks Week!

keywords:  spending time outdoors (nature) and health, environmental health, self-care, supporting kids and their adults to connect with nature, integrative healthcare paradigm, recommended books and resources
updated December 2020

Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, Nothing is going to get better.  It's not.  -Dr. Seuss

In the U.S. we honor today as Earth Day and the following week or so as National Parks week.  My school-age kid loves Earth Day and the variations of school-sponsored activities she's participated during the last several years.  If you've been following the blog and the HH Project newsletters, you know I love an excuse to get outdoors with the kids.  Growing up in the northern Midwest, I was taught that we can be outdoors in most weather, as long as we prepare for it (proper clothing, changes of clothes, etc).  Exceptions, of course, for dangerous-to-health weather conditions like skin-freeze warnings (cold weather) or the black flag days (hot and humid), etc.

I feel that building confidence in kids (and adults!) to enjoy the outdoors (and feel safe doing so) helps foster a sense of wonder.  And, there's nothing quite like wonder and finding wonder in the natural world, from backyards to local parks, to national parks. I am sure there are personal health benefits to feeling wonder and awe.  In fact, this is one of the many areas of nature research Florence Williams writes about in The Nature Fix.

If you are looking for ideas of how to get outdoors with kids of all ages (or need some fresh ideas for your list), check out Richard Louv's Vitamin N:  The Essential Guide to a Nature-Rich Life or the website for the Children and Nature Network.  I recently started reading How to Raise a Wild Child: The Art and Science of Falling in Love with Nature by Scott Sampson (who my kids know as the paleontologist from the PBS show, Dinosaur Train).

There has been a trend in "natural navigation" lately.  An old way of understanding our environment and direction that has been lost to some in the past generation or so requires practicing your skill of observation and pairing it with some farmer's almanac-style facts mixed with modern science.  Tristan Gooley has a full set of resources to learn more about this on his natural navigation website.

Nature time and Your Health
Connecting with nature, whether it is a walk in the town park, gardening, or a trip to your state or national park, is healthy for us.  Health benefits are myriad from movement to the air we breathe to the scenery (see Nature Fix for the details and research citations).  Also, hopefully, it keeps us mindful of our impact on our environment, on both local and regional/national scale.  From gardening classes in schools or your local Master Gardener county extension community courses, you can learn how to grow plants in your area from veggies to local flora.

Our connection and stewardship of our environment is integral to our health and the health of our community.  In traditional Chinese medicine, we talk about the body as a garden, affected by both internal and external factors.  Our environment is an essential piece to the integrative health paradigm. 
Rachel Carson, known for her groundbreaking book, Silent Spring, also wrote a book of poetry-prose of her time with her nephew and mentoring his sense of wonder.  If you are interested in this poetry-prose book of hers, The Sense of Wonder, I recommend the audiobook version narrated by Kaiulani Lee for the lyrical style.

How are you and your healthcare practice connecting to the environment/nature/Earth?
So, how are you connecting nature in your healthcare practice?  Does your healthcare system already have environmental stewardship, nature-mentoring, or other sustainable-environment health practices in place?  Maybe you have a nature area nearby for easy walking or a hidden sitting garden?  Are you connected to a Teaching Kitchen? Or maybe you have a gardening program with your county's Extension Service and Master Gardener resource? How are you working with your patient population in developing a healthy connection to nature?

More resources and ideas below.  And, please add a resource in the comments if it is not listed here and you think it may help others!  Thank you.
Note: if you follow a link directly from this article to Amazon and buy something, a few pennies of your purchase goes toward the Hospital Handbook Project (HHP), a nonprofit community resource.

Reflective reading and poetry

Resources for Parents, Grandparents, Educators (for kids)

Get Outside and Learn More 


Gear and Games

Related Blogposts

If you follow one of the Amazon links above and buy something from Amazon within 12 hours of clicking the link, a few pennies go toward the project.  
The most direct way to support the project?  
 If you love supporting your local library system, most of these books are available through Overdrive or through the Libby app via your library card.  :)

Happy Earth Day from the Hospital-practice Handbook Project!

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