What if Beautiful Green Poetry Could Affect Brain Health?
Here are three articles on the positive effect of green space on the brain, health and wellness. I wonder what the affect of using color words to create vivid images in poetry can do for the brain.
Lee, H. J. and D. K. Lee (2019). "Do Sociodemographic Factors and Urban Green Space Affect Mental Health Outcomes Among the Urban Elderly Population?" Int J Environ Res Public Health 16(5). https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30836691
Chen, Z., Y. He, et al. (2016). "Enhanced functional connectivity properties of human brains during in-situ nature experience." PeerJ 4: e2210.
Groenewegen PP, den Berg AE, de Vries S, Verheij RA. 2006. Vitamin G: effects of green space on health, well-being, and social safety. BMC Public Health 6:149 DOI 10.1186/1471-2458-6-149. [Full Article] https://bmcpublichealth.biomedcentral.com/track/pdf/10.1186/1471-2458-6-149
The Brain in a Green Environment
In this study on how people's brains respond to a green natural environment researchers noted, "analyses revealed that a brief [20 minutes] in-situ restorative nature experience may induce more efficient and stronger brain connectivity with enhanced small-world properties compared with a stressful urban experience. The enhanced small-world properties were found to be correlated with "coherent" experience measured by Perceived Restorativeness Scale (PRS). Exposure to nature also induces stronger long-term correlated activity across different brain regions with a right lateralization.
Researchers, "intentionally selected two typical sites with representative slopes: a wooded campus garden for the nature scene and a traffic island under an elevated highway for the urban scene. From where the participants were seated, the nature scene consisted of 89% visible greenery and water and only 4% visible buildings and/or paved areas; the urban scene consisted of only 8% visible greenery and 56% visible buildings and/or paved areas. Based on a focus group interview after a site visit, the nature environment is highly restorative whereas the urban environment is clearly not. In-situ environmental stimuli were adopted instead of pictorial representations to capture the multisensory experiences of the nature and urban environments."
Concluding researchers said, "These findings may advance our understanding of the functional activities during in-situ environmental exposures and imply that a nature or nature-like environment may potentially benefit cognitive processes and mental well-being."
- Chen, Z., Y. He, et al. (2016). "Enhanced functional connectivity properties of human brains during in-situ nature experience." PeerJ 4: e2210.
Vitamin G for Green
One of the articles referenced was Groenewegen PP, den Berg AE, de Vries S, Verheij RA. 2006. Vitamin G: effects of green space on health, well-being, and social safety. BMC Public Health 6:149 DOI 10.1186/1471-2458-6-149. https://bmcpublichealth.biomedcentral.com/track/pdf/10.1186/1471-2458-6-149
"This research has demonstrated that mere exposure to views of nature can improve people's health and well-being by providing restoration from stress and mental fatigue."
Researchers noted, "previous experimental research in environmental psychology has shown that a natural environment has a positive effect on well-being through restoration of stress and attentional fatigue. Descriptive epidemiological research has shown a positive relationship between the amount of green space in the living environment and physical and mental health and longevity The program has three aims. First, to document the relationship between the amount and type of green space in people's living environment and their health, well-being, and feelings of safety. Second, to investigate the mechanisms behind this relationship. Mechanisms relate to exposure (leading to stress reduction and attention restoration), healthy behavior and social integration, and selection. Third, to translate the results into policy on the crossroads of spatial planning, public health, and safety. Strong points of our program are: we study several interrelated dependent variables, in different ordinary settings (as opposed to experimental or extreme settings), focusing on different target groups, using appropriate multilevel methods."
Defining green space, researchers said, "restorative effects can be achieved by merely looking at nature or natural elements, indicating that the aesthetic experience of nature may play a role in this mechanism. Besides providing relief from stress, an aesthetically attractive living environment may also improve well-being by enhancing satisfaction, attachment, and a sense of responsibility. Related to stress reduction, (American) evidence suggests that exposure to natural environments may reduce feelings of anger, frustration and aggression (e.g., ). In turn, this may enhance feelings of social safety, and even reduce actual rates of aggressive behavior and criminal activity. Physical exposure to cleaner air may play a role also. Traffic density seems to be the most important source of polluted air in the direct vicinity, while the overall level of air pollution is rather constant in The Netherlands "
Another most recent article noted, "the mounting mental health issues faced by elderly urban residents increase the social and economic costs to society associated with dementia and depression. Therefore, it is necessary to identify the characteristics of elderly urban residents suffering from mental health issues, to address these issues more effectively. We used 2015 Community Health Survey data from the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to identify the demographic and social characteristics of 11,408 elderly urban residents in relation to stress levels and symptoms of depression in seven metropolitan areas in Korea, and to calculate the odds ratio for urban green space. We found that the prevalence of these mental health issues generally decreased in relation to the ratio of green space of an area. These findings suggest identifying elderly people who are vulnerable to certain mental health issues based on demographic and social characteristics and demonstrate that the ratio of urban green space within a community is an important component in improving mental health outcomes for elderly urban residents. These findings have policy implications for assisting elderly people vulnerable to certain mental health issues and for establishing a green welfare policy targeting this population."
- Lee, H. J. and D. K. Lee (2019). "Do Sociodemographic Factors and Urban Green Space Affect Mental Health Outcomes Among the Urban Elderly Population?" Int J Environ Res Public Health 16(5). https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30836691
Originally Posted in Our Community of Humanity at Inner Child Magazine
A Happy New Year the Neurotheology of Dopamine
This year eat, sleep, move your body, meditate, sing, love and if you can do it in community even better.
According to Kenneth Blum et al (2015) “Finding happiness may not only reside in our genome [genetic material or genes] but may indeed be impacted by positive meditative practices, positive psychology, spiritual acceptance, love of others and self, and taking inventory of ourselves-one day at a time.”
Will the new year be happier for you?
Do you have a meditative practice that also involves movements, like Qigong, Taichi, breathing exercises, yoga, chanting, running, etc.
Do you seek to bring new awareness to your psychological state and how you feel?
Do you practice love of self and others?
In the 2015 article entitled, "The Molecular Neurobiology of Twelve Steps Program & Fellowship: Connecting the Dots for Recovery," in the Journal of Reward Deficit Syndrome 1(1): 46-64, Blum and his colleagues outline each step of the Twelve Step Recovery Program in terms of what is happening in the brain and how dopamine (pleasure and anti-stress brain chemical) is involved.
The researchers note, "A breakdown of this Brain Reward Cascade will lead to the dysregulation and dysfunction of dopamine homeostasis [balance]. Dopamine has been established as the pleasure and antistress molecule. Any reduction in dopamine function can result in a deficiency in reward that leads to substance seeking behavior [addictions]."
While the article focuses on people with significant addictions who are trying to recovery, there are some lessons for all of us in how we seek community and how we look for rewards and support in our lives.
First, let's consider these questions:
How can we use the sensations we experience in the world and our beliefs about our surroundings to feel better and help our communities function better?
How can we bring more awareness to our lives and see the path forward more clearly?
This is really at the core of the neurotheology or the spiritual neuroscience of brain health and dopamine. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter or a small molecule that is produced in the brain and helps nerve signals travel from one place to another. It also helps us feel good, feel rewarded, and move comfortably.
In a simplistic way, Parkinson's disease, with its tremors, tight muscles, chronic back pain can be described as not enough dopamine, as is also true of some people with significant addictions. At the opposite end of the spectrum, schizophrenia with it hallucinations and breaks with reality can be described as too much dopamine.
Brain Cross Talk and Well Being
The researchers continued, "There is evidence that through the 12-step program and fellowship cross-talk [communication] between the Pre-Frontal Cortex-Cingulate (site of decision-making) and the Nucleus Accumbens (NAc) (site of craving behavior) is developed.
The site of the brain where one experiences feelings of well-being is called the Mesolimbic System and has been termed the reward center. The reward center is where chemical messages, including dopamine (DA), serotonin, enkephalins, and γ-aminobutyric acid (GABA), work together, to provide a net release of dopamine in the Nucleus Accumbens. "
"Dopamine, as stated earlier, has been associated with pleasure and is the primary neurotransmitter modulating the activation of the reward system of the brain. It has been called the anti-stress molecule and the pleasure molecule. When dopamine is released receptors are stimulated and feelings of well-being and stress reduction increase."
Food, Sex, & Exploration
"Drugs of abuse are considered to be stronger positive reinforcers than natural reinforcers (like food and sex). Natural rewards include satisfaction of physiological drives (like hunger and reproduction and exploratory locomotion), and unnatural rewards are learned and involve satisfaction of acquired drives. Acquired drives involve hedonic sensations and pleasure derived from alcohol, other drugs, as well as, from gambling and other risk-taking behaviors."
When an individual is trying to make up for not enough dopamine they may use drugs and other non-natural rewards. Think about your practices around food and sex. Do you feel like you have a healthy relationship to both? Are you stimulating the brain reward centers naturally?
Is Chocolate the Answer?
Certainly chocolate and salty grease foods can be satisfying for a short period of time but when was the last time you ate delicious healthy food prepared with love that brought you pleasure and a deep sense of satisfaction?
Move Your Body
"Exploratory locomotion" is the third natural reward. How often do you move as you explore your environment? Many of us drive cars and are moving in space as we see new sights but our bodies are not moving. This research implies that we have a physiological drive to move our bodies and explore new things in our environment. And that our brain rewards this "exploratory locomotion" with a better balance of dopamine and a strong sense of satisfaction.
Other research indicates that consciously long walking or taking long steps can also enhance the balance of dopamine in the body. One of the symptoms of Parkinson's disease (too little dopamine) is the development of a shuffling gait or walking with short steps. One way to counteract this and improve walking, balance, and muscle relaxation is to consciously take long steps.
"The reinforcing effects of drugs of abuse such as cocaine, alcohol, nicotine, food, and music are mediated in the NAc, a site within the ventral striatum. Indeed, it is believed that this structure directs motivated behaviors, elicited by natural rewards or incentive stimuli."
In what ways do you involve music in your life? Do you sing to or listen to music in a community setting? Does performing or listening to music bring you pleasure and satisfaction?
"Other work by Davidson’s group on mindfulness reveals the importance of mediation in terms of brain activation of the reward circuitry. Understanding this could suggest that meditation coupled with enhance spiritual belief may indeed induce dopamine release" and a happier new year.
Kimberly Burnham, PhD (Integrative Medicine)
860-221-8510 phone and what's app. Skype: Kimberly Burnham (Spokane, Washington)
Chat with Kimberly about Parkinson's, Poetry or other Brain related issues.
Not Taking Advantage of Your Amazon Author's page?
Kimberly Burnham helps authors get their books out into the world more broadly by improving their free Amazon Author's page and book pages, posting a book review on her blog and on her LinkedIn Pulse blog (over 12,000 followers) Promotion packages start at $50. Contact her at NerveWhisperer@gmail.com. See her Amazon Author's Page.
See her list of publications including her latest book of brain health meditations, Awakenings: Peace Dictionary, Language and the Mind, a Daily Brain Health Program.
Designed to enhance memory, creativity, and inner peace, Awakenings: Peace,Dictionary, Language and the Mind, a Daily Brain Health Program is available free of charge as a Kindle eBook on February 14-15, 2019. [Click Here].
Please share and write a review on Amazon.
I am looking for guest blog opportunities and a position as poet-in-residence. My current project is writing dictionary poems using words in different languages for the English word "peace." You can read some of my poems on Poemhunter .
As poet-in-residence I would write poems on different words in different languages and broadcast them throughout the social media blogosphere. Each poem would link back to your site where the word or language appeared.
I would expect some sort of stipend and a six month to one year placement. Please contact me for details if your organization is interested in having a poet-in-residence to help get your message out. Nervewhisperer@gmial.com
Buy the print or eBook, review Awakenings then contact Kimberly for a free 20 minute brain health consultation. Email or Phone
(Regular rates $120 per hour or 10 sessions for $650.)