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CREATION Health: Environment

Our environment has a powerful influence on the mind and body and affects our mood and health. What kind of positive choices can you make to to surround yourself with a healthy environment?

Your environment is the living space you find yourself in at any given time. It could be your home, office or even your car. It’s what you hear, see, smell, taste and touch. William H. Stewart said, “The truly healthy environment is not merely safe but stimulating.” All of our senses—sight, hearing, smell, touch and taste bring stimulating input into our minds and bodies. This input affects us profoundly.

Imagine yourself at the Garden of Eden with Adam and Eve before the fall. Think of all the bright colors, smells and tastes that they experienced before sin. All of these beautiful things God created for us to enjoy, our Environment.

Let’s consider sight: our eyes see a wealth of information every day. This input is either healthy or unhealthy to our well-being.

Things we see that promote well-being are our loved ones and their smiles, family and friends, or pictures that rekindle fond memories of special times. Our hearts are also warmed when we see the loving gifts others have given us. Or when we see nature through our windows, the sun shining brightly, or the warm glow of a sunrise or sunset; or perhaps we see the cat or dog or bird that is our pal.

Often times living spaces are crammed with clutter and noise. But it doesn’t have to be that way. A cluttered living space harms our well-being because it can elevate blood pressure, cause headaches, lead to gastrointestinal distress such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), and cause depression and anxiety.

Organization, cleanliness, and order promote peace and health, decrease waste, and increase energy. Clutter and disorganization, on the other hand, drain energy. Notice how you feel when you walk into a room that is disorganized and cluttered. Then notice how you feel when you enter a room that is neat and clean with inviting items.

Take a moment to consider the images that are coming into your amazing brain. Are they positive and health-promoting? Think about your environment and the TV programs, videos, video games, magazines, books and music that you see and hear. Do they inspire and uplift? This is important because the old saying “By beholding we become changed” is very true.

Many behavioral and cognitive studies link exposure to violent media and aggressive behavior. In a recent study, teens who played violent video games showed an increased activity in areas of the brain linked to emotional arousal and decreased responses in regions that govern self-control.

Sound affects our health. Hearing loving words, uplifting music, singing and the sounds of nature are a blessing to the mind, body and soul.

In a hospital where patients were undergoing a flexible bronchoscopy, researchers placed a mural of nature in front of patients and played nature sounds during the procedure. Those with the sights and sounds of nature reported significantly less pain than those without. It’s encouraging that even when we’re unable to get out into nature, just looking at it can be a blessing.

The third sense we’ll talk about is smell. How often do we take take time to literally “smell the roses” and other flowers growing around us? The sense of smell is a blessing. Think about the aromas of a wonderful Italian or Chinese meal…or of a freshly baked apple pie.

Take time in nature to enjoy the fresh, clean air. Plants clean the air we breathe by feeding on carbon dioxide and giving us pure oxygen in exchange.

NASA research says that green and flowering plants remove several toxic chemicals from the air in building interiors. Placing these plants in your home or office improves air quality making it a more pleasant place to live and work. The recommendation is one 6 inch plant per 100 square feet of interior.

Alarmingly, a growing body of scientific evidence indicates that the air within homes and buildings can be more seriously polluted than the outdoor air in even the largest, most industrialized cities. According to the EPA, Americans spend about 90 percent of their time indoors. The air inside most homes is an average of 2-5 times more polluted than the air outside its walls. For many people, the risks to health from exposure to indoor air pollution might be greater than risks from outdoor pollution. Indoor air pollution has become one of the top five environmental risks for public health.

Somewhere deep in the fabric of the human heart God placed a desire for us to love and be loved, to touch and be touched.

In his book Psychosocial Medicine: A Study of the Sick Society James L. Halliday wrote that infants deprived of regular maternal body contact can develop profound depression with an accompanying lack of appetite and wasting so severe that it can lead to death. Numerous studies document our need for touch to develop and grow. Research shows that husbands who hug their wives regularly tend to live longer and have fewer heart problems.

As John Ruskin once said, “Nature is painting for us, day after day, pictures of infinite beauty.” Let’s learn what research says about how this impacts our minds, and how it benefits workers, students, patients in hospitals and people in urban areas.

Experiencing nature either through passive observance or active participation is important to psychological well-being, according to University of Michigan researcher Rachel Kaplan.

The pressures of modern life contribute to the experience of mental fatigue, which can lead to intolerance, ineffectiveness, and poor health. But natural settings reduce these harmful effects.

The environment can restore, energize or deplete us emotionally, physically and mentally. Take a moment to visualize an environment you find restful, peaceful and that nurtures your soul. Can you do anything to make your current home or work environments more like the one you’re visualizing?

In John 10:10, Jesus said he came so we could live life to the fullest. May your environment help you gain a rich life experience!

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