We tend to underestimate winter's beauty. The days are cold and
short -- and all too often dreary
Spending time in nature may improve memory and concentration among cancer patients
But every now and then it startles
us: The sparkle of an icicle compels our attention. We "ooh" and "ahh"
when snow dusts tree boughs like powdered sugar. And even if we
dread the shoveling, we still pause to admire the way snow blankets
imperfections before we dig in and muddy up the path.
Bernadine Cimprich visits the U-M Matthaei
Botanical Garden. She has published studies
demonstrating the benefits of spending time
View a more comprehensive list of Tips on Gettng a Daily Dose of Nature
With so many things competing for attention in our lives -- particularly
for those who have been diagnosed with cancer -- it can be easy
not to hear the snow crunching under our boots. But a growing body
of research suggests that our lives might actually be better if we did.
Bernadine Cimprich, Ph.D., R.N., an associate professor of nursing at
the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center, has
conducted studies that have shown that breast cancer patients who
made a point of spending time in nature were better able to concentrate
and had fewer problems with memory than those who did not
spend time in nature.
"The women showed signs of having problems concentrating
before any chemotherapy. The thought is that it's related to fatigue
and stress and that possibly when a woman gets chemotherapy, that's
compounded, but we don't know that yet," Cimprich said. "In any
case, the women who spent time in nature showed improvement in
cognitive functioning and maintained it over the course of the year that
we followed them."
Other studies have shown similar effects in the general population
as well. Caregivers, in particular, may benefit from nature activities.
Cimprich recommends spending at least 20 minutes in nature per day,
or about two hours per week. Patients and caregivers should choose
nature activities that appeal to their interests.
"Some people like to do gardening," she said. "And some people
just like to watch the garden grow."
6 Natural Remedies
We've put together a list of ideas to help you get the most out of
nature during a cold Michigan winter.
Make a cozy nook by a window.
Watch the snow fall
and the weather
change from the
warmth of your
Tips to get you started including nature in your life
Look at nature pictures or
videos. Flip through the latest
National Geographic or consider
a DVD such as the Discovery
Channel's Planet Earth.
Visit the U-M Matthaei
Botanical Garden. The indoor
conservatory will transport you to
warmer climes -- and it's just minutes
from the Cancer Center, at 1800
Dixboro Road in Ann Arbor. Or,
explore a nature preserve closer
to your home.
Grow an indoor
garden. Use common containers
like clean milk jugs, cans and
jars filled with water to sprout
sweet potatoes, carrots or avocado
seeds. Grapefruit, lemon
and orange seeds planted in
potting soil or vermiculite grow
into pretty plants. Make a window
herb garden; dry the herbs you
don't cook. However, if you are
currently receiving cancer treatment,
check with your doctor first.
Exposure to live plants and soil
may not be advisable for some
Invest in a fish
Watching fish swim
is soothing -- and fascinating.
Hang a bird feeder . . .
. . . near a window so
you can watch from
inside on cold days.
Use candles or a
while you watch
the flames flicker.
Play in the snow.
If you're feeling up
to it, take a walk
on a snowy day or
throw a snowball at
Visit the zoo.
aviary and butterfly
houses are open
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