"You will find something more in woods than in books.Trees and stones will teach you that which you can never learn from masters." - St. Bernard
Let’s take a closer look at how EarthWonders applies this research by examining just one example using the Social dimension of care from our Nine Principals of the Ecology of Caring™. It’s important to remember that the benefits in most all cases can be achieved by experiencing nature directly, indirectly and even symbolically.
Our Web Of Life: Our EarthWonders Community™ is a dynamic whole dependent upon one another and our families. We are committed for the long term to our own well-being, each other, our community, our planet and future generations. (Social)
The social connection is important in our lives at all times, but especially as we age or become ill and face our increasing need for interdependency and care. Here’s a small sample of research identifying social concerns in aging and illness:
Journal of Gerontological Nursing 26, no.8 (2000): 15-19, “What is Your Life Like Now? Loneliness and Elderly Individuals Residing in Nursing Homes cites the causes of loneliness as the lack of intimate relationships, increased dependency, and loss of friends, home, independence and self-identity.
Researcher Janice Kiecalt-Glaser of Ohio State University substantiates the relationship between physical health, friendship, loneliness, and social networks. She calls this connection between satisfying personal relationships & better immune function “one of the most robust findings in psychoneuroimmunology – the study of the biological mechanism by which emotion, stress & behavior affect resistance to disease.
Now look at what some researchers are saying about the social dimension and the impact of the nature-health connection:
According to Dr. Rachel Kaplan and others in “Nearby Nature in the City: Preserving and Enhancing Livability” (2007, p.2) “the natural environment is fundamental to people’s well-being” and “there are many studies that support these claims”.
Researchers at the University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana found that “residents living closer to green spaces enjoyed more social activities than residents living in barren spaces. They also had stronger feelings of belonging, more visitors, and got to know more of their neighbors”.
Cohen & Day (1993) noted “an increase in the preference of family members to visit with patients outdoors rather than indoors”.
Leisure research (e.g. Hutchison, 1994) points to “distinctive patterns of older people’s activities in public parks – early in the morning elders would gather together in previously established areas of the park to interact socially. For them the park served as a “neighborhood center” in facilitating interaction in small peer groups and supporting the maintenance of personal relationships”.
Ulrich, 1992 noted “gardens in healthcare institutions are considered important elements in fostering social and emotional support for patients, visitors, and employees”.
“Research with users of parks and outdoors settings indicates that natural environments are used as settings for social and emotional support” as reported by Driver and Brown, 1986 and Ulrich and Addoms, 1981.
Anyone working in long term care or hospice care has seen firsthand the importance of social connections and how this need is heightened when we face the later stages of our life here on earth. You probably didn’t need a couple citations of research to validate your own experiences about the connection between personal relationships and health. However, now that you’ve seen some evidence of the potential benefits nature can provide, EarthWonders can be the bridge to help you intentionally connect the right circumstances and environment – the right culture – to support opportunities to enhance those vital connections. Nature provides the path.