Nature Calling: How Nature Helps My Sister With Parkinson’s
I once had to attend a team-building and stress-reducing exercise event for work that involved immersing ourselves in nature. Yes, there was tree hugging, leaf exploration, trail walking, and stargazing. The point of the exercise was for nature to help us get in touch with ourselves and each other.
And actually, it did.
So, I wondered how nature helps my sister, Bev, who has stage 3 Parkinson’s disease (PD).
She loves taking her dog, Izzy, for a walk in the park near her home. Bev ties the leash to her rollator. Izzy is an old girl, so she doesn’t move too quickly, either. Since there are park benches along the way, Bev can rest and enjoy the surroundings.
Bev said, “I love seeing the trees, feeling the breeze on a summer day, sitting in front of the pond, and listening to the birds sing.”
Parkinson’s News Today columnist Dr. C wrote that gardening helps him manage his PD because of all the health benefits.
A 2019 article published in the journal Scientific Reports shared the benefits of spending time in an outdoor setting.
Journalist Jim Robbins summarized the findings of this study in his 2020 article about the benefits of nature for Yale Environment 360. He wrote, “… people who spent two hours a week in green spaces — local parks or other natural environments, either all at once or spaced over several visits — were substantially more likely to report good health and psychological well-being than those who don’t.”
Not everyone with PD may be able to spend two hours a week in nature, but the Davis Phinney Foundation for Parkinson’s notes that everyone can do something. An article on the organization’s website includes the following suggestions.
Dig, plant, or weed a garden
Although Bev isn’t able to spend time in her garden every day, she does enjoy spending 30 minutes here and there planting and replanting flowers in her yard. She tried weeding, but her balance issues resulted in a couple of falls.
Go barefoot, allowing your feet to feel the grass
Bev has a large, beautiful backyard. Although she won’t walk on the grass because of her unstable footing, she has been known to take off her shoes just for a few minutes to feel its splendor.
Have a picnic or cookout on your patio or in the park
Bev has attended community gatherings at her nearby park, which has ramadas for consuming food and beverages. In addition to enjoying nature, she gets to watch her great-grandson play softball.
Bring nature indoors with houseplants
Bev is definitely an indoor plant maven. I tease her that soon she will have to open a greenhouse and nursery for all her plants.
Because she lives in Ohio, Bev gets to experience the four seasons, unlike me living in the Arizona desert. She told me that her favorite season is winter. (I still can’t figure that out!)
But she said, “In the fall, when it is not so humid and hot out, I like to sit outside on the patio with my coffee, some bakery [goods], and enjoy the surroundings.” She has tall pine trees at the edge of her backyard, as well as a small creek where she can listen to the water. There are also ducks in the creek that she can watch.
Engaging with nature can help all of us. For people with PD, it can help decrease possible feelings of isolation, increase awareness and creativity, and perhaps even help manage some symptoms.
To learn more about how nature helps all of us destress and be more creative, I recommend diving into the book “The Nature Fix” by Florence Williams.
Note: Parkinson’s News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Parkinson’s News Today or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to Parkinson’s disease.