GULF COAST ZEITGEIST

Our is­lands’ good na­ture helps you love your body

Times of the Islands - - News -

A Gift From Mother Na­ture

Anum­ber of re­cent sci­en­tific stud­ies have dis­cov­ered that spend­ing time in a nat­u­ral en­vi­ron­ment of­fers a buf­fet of ben­e­fits, from phys­i­cal ther­apy to eas­ing men­tal de­pres­sion and even in­creas­ing al­tru­is­tic be­hav­ior. Now a re­search team led by psy­chol­o­gist Viren Swami of Anglia Ruskin Univer­sity in Cam­bridge, Eng­land, re­port­ing in the re­search jour­nal Body Im­age, has demon­strated that strolling in na­ture—or even just view­ing pho­tos of it—en­gen­ders a more pos­i­tive body im­age.

As to why ex­po­sure to na­ture could be hav­ing this ef­fect, Swami sug­gested a cou­ple of rea­sons: (1) “It might be that it dis­tances peo­ple, phys­i­cally and men­tally, from ap­pear­ance-fo­cused sit­u­a­tions that are one of the causes of neg­a­tive body im­age;” (2) spend­ing time in a nat­u­ral out­door set­ting “may pro­vide peo­ple with cog­ni­tive quiet, which, in turn, may foster self-com­pas­sion.”

I would add a third ob­ser­va­tion that is shared by most of us liv­ing on the con­ser­va­tion-minded Gulf Coast: We are par­tic­i­pants in a cir­cle of life (as de­scribed by St. Bon­aven­ture) whose cen­ter is ev­ery­where and whose cir­cum­fer­ence is nowhere. In other words, we are part of a dy­namic process so vast and multi-crea­tured that our near­sighted hu­man self-cen­tered­ness is put in its place (and left there!).

These re­search find­ings are timely as we move through a cel­e­bra­tive sea­son of high hol­i­days marked by fes­tive din­ing and some se­ri­ous shop­ping. When it comes to the mat­ter of self-im­age we can eas­ily get trapped in a para­dox­i­cal “box”: the more we eat, the more we need new clothes to cover the ef­fects of the ex­cess calo­ries we’ve con­sumed. Per­haps now is the time to look be­yond the im­age re­flected in a mirror and go out­side to look around.

While Mother Na­ture’s mes­sage is writ­ten clearly for those with the eyes to see, we “word-mak­ers” can some­times be awk­ward when try­ing to com­mu­ni­cate. I re­call hear­ing about a sign penned by an Ital­ian busi­ness­man hang­ing on the door of his laun­dry in Rome: “Ladies, leave your clothes here and then spend the af­ter­noon hav­ing a good time.”

Luck­ily, there are other oc­ca­sions when we “get the pic­ture” and then care­fully choose just the right words: “And why do you worry about cloth­ing? Con­sider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they nei­ther toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these.” (Matthew 6:28-29).

So, this hol­i­day sea­son why not try some din­ing and shop­ping out­doors? To make your trips more re­ward­ing here are some “store” hours: 1. Morn­ing glo­ries—open 5-6 a.m., close noon 2. Wa­ter lilies—open 7-8 a.m., close 6-7 p.m. 3. Daylilies—open 7-8 a.m., close 8-9 p.m. (And for those who like to shop ’til they drop:) 4. Dan­de­lions—open 5-6 a.m., close 8-9 p.m. Dr. Randall Niehoff has been din­ing and shop­ping in Mother Na­ture’s place on Sani­bel since 1991.

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