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Oregon Family Magazine

Enjoy the Benefits of Nature During a Heat Wave

08/01/2023 ● By Sandi Schwartz
It’s the heart of summertime, and many areas are experiencing record-breaking heat waves. When it’s too hot to be outside, both kids and adults get antsy. We crave time outdoors, especially during the summer months. We don’t want to overdo it and end up with heat stroke or other health issues from spending too much time outside in the steamy weather.

But nature is so critical to our health and well-being. Nature calms us, reducing feelings of stress, anxiety, and anger. It has also been shown to improve focus and attention, as well as reduce blood pressure, heart rate, muscle tension, and the production of stress hormones. It even makes us friendlier and more apt to reach out to others in our community.

How can we still connect to nature even during a heat wave when it’s difficult to head outdoors? Nothing beats actually immersing ourselves in the natural environment outside, but science proves that we can capture the essence of what nature has to offer through images, sounds, and plants inside our home.

Nature Imagery. Amazingly, just looking at pictures of nature scenes can make us feel similar to actually spending time outdoors. A recent study published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health found that you can reduce stress by simply looking at images of nature. When participants viewed pictures of natural scenes, their stress level decreased because their parasympathetic nervous system (which helps us to calm down) was activated.

Nature Sounds. Listening to nature can help relax us and improve our mood. The best sounds are those that give a sense of natural space and mimic the biorhythms of an ecosystem like the slow, rhythmic whooshing noises of water. One study found that people who listened to ocean waves had considerably lower muscle tension, heart rates, and stress than those who listened to silence or music by Mozart.

Plants. Plants and flowers have long been known to cheer people up. Research done in hospitals, offices, and schools has consistently found that even a simple plant in a room can have a significant impact on reducing stress and anxiety, and boost healing. 

Bring nature indoors in the following ways to help your family feel happier and calmer even when there is record-breaking weather in your area:

·       Visit indoor sanctuaries of nature such as an arboretum, butterfly garden, botanical garden, greenhouse, science museum, or aquarium.

  • Decorate your house with awe-inspiring images of nature. Collect gorgeous pieces from famous photographers like Ansel Adams and Philip Hyde or start a family hobby of taking pictures of nature that you love to display throughout your house. 
  • Display plants throughout your house.
  • Start an indoor garden of herbs and flowers.
  • Watch nature shows, movies, and documentaries as a family.
  • Include pictures and objects of nature that are green and blue in your house, colors known to calm us down.
  • Play nature sounds in your home, especially at bedtime.
  • Try out some virtual reality with a nature theme.
  • Engage in nature-related creative arts projects like nature collages or putting together a slideshow of nature photographs you have taken.