Shinrin-yoku, or “forest bathing,” is a traditional Japanese practice of immersing oneself in nature by mindfully using all five senses. But you don’t have to lose yourself in a forest to reap the health benefits of being in nature. Something as simple as a walk through a park or by a lake can pay off for your well-being, says Frances Kuo, PhD, founder and director of the Landscape and Human Health Lab at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
“Even just looking at a rooftop garden for 40 seconds helps you sustain attention during mentally fatiguing tasks,” she says, citing a 2015 study. Here are more reasons to embrace the outdoors.
- More positive outlook. Participants in a small study who took a 90-minute nature walk, compared with those who walked through an urban environment, reported lower levels of ruminating (repetitive negative thoughts), a known risk for depression and other psychological conditions. They also showed reduced activity in an area of the brain linked to sadness and withdrawal.
- Better sleep. An Australian study of 259,319 people found that people living in neighborhoods with more greenspace were more likely to get eight hours of sleep nightly than those living in neighborhoods with less green space.
- Less pain. A landmark study published in the journal Science found that hospitalized patients whose windows looked onto a garden setting healed faster from surgery and required less pain medication than patients whose view was a brick wall.
- Sharper memory. When people took an hour stroll in a nature setting, their short-term memory improved by 20 percent, a study in Psychological Science found. Even looking at pictures of nature helped memory.
- Healthier heart. People whose homes have easier access to woods and parks had lower levels of blood-vessel-damaging adrenaline and higher levels of circulating angiogenic cells (CACs), which repair blood vessel damage, according to a study of cardiology patients.
If short days have you feeling blue, getting more sunshine and exercise can help, says Mark Rapaport, MD, chairman of the psychiatry and behavioral sciences department at Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta. These strategies also might help.
- Look ahead. Plan and focus on something positive in your future, Dr. Rapaport suggests, like a vacation or a night out with friends.
- Get crafty. Knitting yourself a scarf could do more than protect you from the cold. A study of 3,545 knitters worldwide found a link between knitting and happiness. The greatest impact was among those who knitted in a group.
- Say “om.” Easy on painful joints, yoga is also tough on the blues, according to a review article in Frontiers in Psychiatry. Yoga appears to influence brain chemicals and inflammation in the body similarly to antidepressants and psychotherapy.
- Get enough zzz’s. It’s hard to feel good when you are sleep-deprived. Research shows that increasing sleep time by treating insomnia may improve mood. If your blues don’t go away and you feel helpless, hopeless, guilty or despairing, see a professional.
Between normal stress and worry, too-much screen time on smartphones and tablets, staying up late, having to get up too early and many other reasons, getting a good night’s sleep can be elusive. Add arthritis pain into the mix and you just might find yourself on the short end of the sleep equation too often. Continue reading Five Ways to Get Better Sleep if you Have Arthritis
It’s 2 a.m. and you’re wide awake. Your arthritis symptoms are under control. You’ve given up caffeine, naps and late-night TV, and you practice yoga and deep breathing, but these changes haven’t worked for you. Before resorting to prescription sleeping pills, consider trying one of the following natural remedies. But remember: Talk to your doctor before starting any supplement.
Continue reading Three Supplements for Better Sleep
Fibromyalgia, an example of a central pain syndrome, is a chronic health condition characterized by symptoms like widespread muscle pain, fatigue, memory problems and mood changes. Many people with fibromyalgia complain that sleep – or lack thereof – is one of the most frustrating challenges of living with fibromyalgia.
Continue reading Fibromyalgia and Sleep
Is arthritis pain keeping you from getting a good night’s sleep? Is daytime fatigue bringing you down? Exercise can help. It’s been proven that even light exercise can help you get the rest you need.
Continue reading Move More, Sleep Better
If joint pain is keeping you up in the wee hours of the morning, tell your doctor so that she can determine if your arthritis meds are properly managing your symptoms. While your doctor may prescribe stronger pain meds, such as opioids, for short-term use, they come with many downsides and can leave you feeling sleepy the next day. For some people with chronic pain, low-dose antidepressants can help them sleep better by interrupting the pain cycle. You may have to try several medications before you find one that works for you.
Continue reading Arthritis Pain Causing Insomnia? Here’s What You Can Do
If you have problems with chronic pain and insomnia, don’t lose hope. There are ways to improve your chances of getting a good night’s rest.
Tammy Applegate dreams of sleep – when she dreams, that is. Most nights, she can’t sleep soundly; pain rousts her four or five times. She turns over, repositions the pillow under one shoulder – the only position that offers some relief – and waits for slumber to overpower her discomfort. “Sometimes it takes me so long to get comfortable that I stay awake anywhere from 30 minutes to a couple of hours,” says the Fort Worth, Tex., mother of four, who has mixed connective tissue disease and requires sleep treatments to resolve her issues with pain and sleep.
She’s got plenty of company. Insomnia – broadly defined as having trouble falling or staying sleep – affects anywhere from 10 to 40 percent of American adults, at least intermittently, according to population studies. It’s estimated that some 10 to 15 percent have long-term sleep problems (lasting more than a month).
Continue reading Chronic Pain and Insomnia- Here’s Why You’re Tossing and Turning