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Celebrate Canada’s Parks Day!
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Celebrate Canada’s Parks Day!

There are so many reasons to spend time outdoors and explore in nature. It’s a great way to connect with nature and learn about local biodiversity. There is more and more research exposing the physical and mental health benefits of spending time in nature. Simply put, exploring nature is good for you and good for your soul. What’s more is you don’t need to go far to get into nature. In fact, our NatureHood program is all about that: exploring nature right where you live. Watch and listen to the birds in your neighbourhood. How many species can you identify? Early morning is the best time, as that’s when birds are most active. Find out how you can attract birds and other wildlife to your yard – it can be as simple as planting native flowers to attract butterflies. Learn more about ways you can be a good neighbor to wildlife here. Another way to get out into nature is to go for a hike at your local nature trails. Make sure you familiarize yourself with the plants you shouldn’t touch! Hint: poison ivy thrives along trail edges – another good reason to stick to the trails! Summer is also a great time to venture out a little farther and explore our beautiful parks! Saturday, July 21 is Canada’s Parks Day – a day to celebrate our parks and all that they have to offer. Depending where you live in the country, you won’t have to go far to get to a park.

Summer is short so get out and explore! What’s your favourite nature-based activity?

The Connection between Nature and Mental Health
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The Connection between Nature and Mental Health

The benefits of spending time in nature are endless. Daily contact with nature has a positive impact on our social, psychological and physical health, and is an important factor to keep us connected to our natural environment. In the last few decades humans have become more sedentary, and less inclined to spend time in nature. This is causing a disconnect with nature, and with our own well-being. This week, to celebrate Mental Health Week in Canada, we are discussing the impact of nature on your mental health.


How nature affects mood

The National Collaborating Centre for Environmental Health reports that there are several pathways by which time in nature improves mood- by reducing stress both physiologically and through attention restoration, by increasing physical activity and by increasing social contact with others.[i]  Additionally, scientists have demonstrated changes in brain activity and reduced rumination following a walk in nature.  Rumination is a preoccupation with negative thoughts and is associated with depression.[ii] Participants of the David Suzuki 30x30 challenge (30 minutes daily for 30 days) reported better moods, more energy and vitality as well as increased fascination ( which is researcher speak for a sense of awe and affinity with the natural world).[iii]

Take that black dog for a walk in the woods

Winston Churchill suffered from periods of depression or melancholy throughout his life; he referred to this as the "black dog".  Statistically, he was in good company as depression is a common disorder and is considered the leading cause of disability globally.[iv]  In Canada over ten percent of youth have had a depressive episode and eight percent of adults will experience depression in their lifetime.[v]  But the simple act of spending even short amounts of time in nature can improve moods, even in people who have been diagnosed with a mood disorder.[vi] [vii]

Complementary therapy

This is not to say that nature can replace the traditional pharmacology and psychotherapy treatments for depression.  However, it does suggest that everyone, including those who suffer from depression would benefit from access to green spaces.  This includes living in proximity to nature; a study in the U.K. of disadvantaged pregnant women found that higher residential greenness was associated with reduced depressive symptoms.[viii]

Quality matters

The benefits of time in nature are proportionate with the quality of the green space, the amount of time spent there and the level of immersion (active, such as green exercise is more effective than passive, say, looking out a window).  Therefore, it behooves us to champion the creation and protection of accessible, biodiverse natural areas where we live, work and play.

So whether you have a "black dog" in your life or just had a bad day, think about going outside for a healthy dose of nature!


For more information on Mental Health Week in Canada, please consult the Canadian Mental Health Association Centre website.Sources [i] National Collaborating Centre for Environmental Health.  2015.  Green space and Mental Health: Pathways, impacts and gaps.  Downloaded on April 16, 2018 from http://www.ncceh.ca/sites/default/files/Full_Review-Greenspace_Mental_Health_Mar_2015.pdf [ii] Bratman et al. 2015.  Nature experience reduces rumination and subgenual prefrontal cortex activation.  Downloaded May 3, 2018 from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4507237/#!po=8.62069 [iii] Nisbet, Elizabeth K.  2015. Answering Nature's Call- Results of the 2015 David Suzuki Foundation's 30x30 Nature Challenge.  Downloaded Sept. 23, 2017 from https://davidsuzuki.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/09/results-2015-david-suzuki-foundation-30x30-nature-challenge.pdf [iv] World Health Organization. 2018. Depression.  Downloaded May 3, 2018 from http://www.who.int/en/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/depression [v] Canadian Mental Health Association. 2013.  Fast facts about Mental Illness.  Downloaded May 3, 2018 from https://cmha.ca/about-cmha/fast-facts-about-mental-illness [vi] Capaldi, CA, Passmore, H., Nisbet, EK, Zelenski, J., Dopko, R.  2015.  Fourishing in Nature:  A Review of the Benefits of Connecting with Nature and Its Application as a Wellbeing Intervention.  International Journal of Wellbeing, Vol 5, No. 4.  Downloaded Oct. 3, 2017 from https://internationaljournalofwellbeing.org/index.php/ijow/article/view/449 [vii] National Collaborating Centre for Environmental Health.  2015.  Green space and Mental Health: Pathways, impacts and gaps.  Downloaded on April 16, 2018 from http://www.ncceh.ca/sites/default/files/Full_Review-Greenspace_Mental_Health_Mar_2015.pdf [viii] McEachern, RRC, Prady, SL, Smith, G. Et al.  2015.  The association between green space and depressive symptoms in pregnant women: moderating roles of socioeconomic status and physical activity. Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, Volume 70, Issue 3.  Downloaded on April 20, 2018 from http://jech.bmj.com/content/70/3/253.long

Put Dad on the Map this Father’s Day
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Put Dad on the Map this Father’s Day

Alex 242x242 with titleAre you looking for a fun, innovative gift for Father’s Day? Want to find a way to spend some quality time with your Dad and spend time outdoors? Well if your Dad likes puttering in the backyard, has a green thumb (or likes to think he does), or is always looking for home improvement jobs, look no further! Nature Canada has the perfect solution – put your dad on the map. That is, put a space that’s special to your dad on the map – such as your yard, a nearby green space, a park, or even a campsite. Stumped? Try to think of where your dad goes to connect with nature... Is it nearby nature? Is it in your naturehood?Is it your yard? [caption id="attachment_17610" align="alignright" width="377"]photo white throated Sparrow White Throated Sparrow photo by John Flannery[/caption] Whatever the case, it’s easy to put your dad’s special space on the map. Using the free YardMap* citizen science tool you can can create informative, detailed maps of the basic land cover (e.g., grass, forest, etc.), special natural features (e.g., fruit trees, milkweed plants, bird houses), and – most importantly – the various habitats available to urban wildlife in a space that’s special to your dad. That space could play a big role in providing habitat for urban wildlife. And I don’t just mean raccoons, skunks and pigeons (which we may not want) – I’m also referring to migratory visitors like Swainson’s Thrushes, White-throated Sparrows, Tree Swallows, Monarch butterflies, Silver-haired Bats and Common Green Darner dragonflies. Wouldn’t it be great to celebrate your dad and what he means to you by showing him what his special space means to nature? This is a sure way to put a smile on your father’s face if he enjoys the outdoors, likes gardening or enjoys puttering around the yard. To get started, simply visit YardMap.ca and sign-up for a free account. Once inside you use the “Map” features to navigate to your dad’s special space and start mapping using the available tools in the “Tool Shed”.  You can impress your dad by completing a map of his space, or you can map the space with his help – a great way to spend some quality-time together! [caption id="attachment_21375" align="alignleft" width="262"]YardMap_Map_demo YardMap helps you document urban wildlife habitats right in your yard![/caption] And your efforts will be of value to ecologists and other scientists, as well. That’s because relatively little is known about the types of wildlife habitat available in backyards and small green spaces. By putting these spaces on the map, you’re helping to provide insights into why certain species may or may not be present in an area when otherwise expected. Plus, you can help scientists gain insight into the extent and different types of stewardship actions individual residents are taking, such as maintaining a natural pesticide-free yard, adding rain barrels or solar panels, or planting nectar-producing plants. If you’re still not convinced that a ‘YardMap gift’ is right for your dad this Father’s Day, consider this as a great way to celebrate Pollinator Week, June 15th to 21st. Please consider sharing your YardMap project with us! You can send me a link to your map at amacdonald  (AT) naturecanada.ca if so. *Nature Canada is the Canadian partner of YardMap, a citizen science project of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

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