It’s Only Natural

blogxarchedxbridgeI’m occasionally asked why I write Regency romances, and part of my answer has to do with loving life in the country. For Britain, the Regency was the last defined era before the majority of the population would reside in the cities. Up until about 1850, most Brits lived in the country most of the time.

As I do, and as I almost always have. Where I grew up, the woods came right up to the backyard, and where I live, my daughter could hop on her pony and ride the old logging trails crisscrossing the mountainside. I’ve always considered living close to nature a kind of wealth, and it turns out, I’m right.

12-victorian-couple-lee-avisonSpending time in nature is really, really good for us, even if that nature is just a city a park. Some bright psychological types from England’s University of Exeter Medical School took a look at the mental health of people who live near urban parks, versus those who don’t.

The parkside residents are healthier, and lest you think that’s because they jogged in those parks, or ice-skated, or exercised, think again. Even correcting for exercise, just living where you can see trees and squirrels and ducks makes you happier and less stressed. This also holds true after correcting for higher income, better education, and a good job (all of which also help with mental health). Having a park nearby gives you the same demographic boost to your mental health as would earning $20,000/year more.


Dutch researchers analyzed data from 15,000 people living within half a mile of a park, and found lower incidences of fifteen kinds of ailments, including depression, anxiety, heart disease, diabetes, asthma, and migraines (compared to citydwellers who didn’t live near a park). The Japanese have a term, shinnin-yoku, which means forest-bathing. The medical and mental health benefits of a leisurely walk in the woods are so well documented, that it’s an accepted form of stress management among many Asian cultures.

blogxhydexparkxwinterOther researches are proving that greenspace can make a neighborhood less violent, and even videos of nature can make a prison less violent. I suspect most people who regularly walk a dog, or who’ve taken their kids to the park, don’t need the science to back up what their own intuition confirms: A walk on even the urban wild side is good for the soul.

blogxwildI hope on your Christmas list for yourself, you can work in a little bit of outdoor time, despite the cold and the busyness. You don’t have DO anything outside–not hike, not jog, not clean the gutters, not cut down the Christmas tree–just get out where the rivers like to run (Three Dog Night earworm!) and let yourself breathe.

Any other fans of nature out there? How do you get time away from civilization? To one commenter, I’ll send a 2017 Thomas Mangelsen calendar.



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12 comments on “It’s Only Natural

  1. I have just moved from countryside to the seaside and I feel the same invigorating buzz, l walk miles pass the grassy banks and cliffs down to the grey roaring sea.So different from my previous abode but still giving me total freedom and wellbeing_Perfect.

  2. I’m a sedentary person by nature. Always have been – even as a child. However, the one physical activity that I truly enjoyed was walking. Not treadmill walking. It’s just not the same. I loved slapping on the earphones, grabbing the dog, and just bopping down the street or country lane.

    Well, I cannot do that any longer. Knee and back problems just won’t allow it. Nowadays I commune with nature from my front porch. From early Spring through late Fall I love sitting out there with a cup of hot coffee or iced tea. I live in the suburbs, but it is an older neighborhood with lots of tall, well established trees. I’ve surrounded my porch with plants and flowers that the birds, butterflies, and bees love.

    Yes, I even love my bees. They really won’t hurt you as long as they have some flowers or plants to suck on and you don’t swat at them. And God help us if the day ever comes when they are not around to help us survive.

    • I try to take my first cup of tea sitting on my porch steps, no matter how cold the day is. I want a few moments to pause between “Up and at ’em!” and tearing into the to-dos. Especially working at home, it’s easy to be on several treadmills at once, and forget to look up to the clouds and stars.

  3. In the Spring and Summer, I love to sit on my back porch and listen to the birds sing. The corgis love to watch the birds, too and they alert me if the squirrels , wild turkeys and deer trespass in their yard. The front porch is also great for bird and geese watching. It’s fun to see the cardinals hop from branch to branch. And Molly does enjoy a good squirrel chase. I like to take a step back and have some quiet time before my day starts. I am lucky that my house in in a woodsy neighborhood.

    Walking is a great way to stay in touch with your surroundings and neighborhood. I have several beautiful nature walks, the beach and my neighborhood to walk.

    I’d like to visit Arcadia Park in Maine in the next few years. Have been there before and it’s gorgeous. I don’t think I will camp out in a tent this time but, I will enjoy the getaway in a hotel…maybe a rustic one…no tv or Internet?

    • That’s something I try to enjoy about Scotland. A lot of the hotels in the islands and Highlands will SAY they have internet, but it’s a theoretical sort of internet, and you can’t make it more reliable by grousing about it.
      So why not go outside and enjoy BEING IN SCOTLAND?

  4. I live in that hybrid known as suburbia; we are actually considered a *bedroom community*. We have city aspects, but if I drive 5 minutes out of my sub-division, there are cornfields, forest preserves and nature preserves.

    I grew up in the city but so close to a nationally known cemetery we could take nature walks by crossing the street. It is a beauty, as far as cemeteries are concerned. Once a season or so, Mom would gather us to take a walk to watch the leaves sprout or change or the snow glimmer or to watch the swans on the lake. (Just to tease you as to which cemetery; Charles Dickens’ BROTHER is buried there!)

    I still like to take walks to watch the seasons. I miss a stressful former job of mine only because I had to drive through a forest preserve. I looked forward to seeing the leave change every year. That helped me focus on good instead of the stressful situation I would be entering or to decompress on the way home.

    I haven’t been walking as much as I normally do but think it might be just the thing to help me get back on track after the rough political season.

    • It’s interesting to me to notice what the walkers notice about their own neighborhoods. When I’m rambling pretty regularly, I notice whose car is gone for a while, whose dog isn’t out much, whose trying to beat back the jungle in the hedgerow, and who hasn’t put in a garden this year. Living beside those same people and driving past their houses everyday, I don’t notice nearly as much, nor do I get an occasional chance to say hello to a neighbor out working in the yard.

  5. I go on a Women’s Retreat once a year at September and I love spending time in nature, but know there is a toilet and shower by near by. I am always in a better mood, when I come back from my retreat.

  6. Y’all got a rant I deleted. Our area is deemed “rural, remote” by USPS. The green space goes for miles in places. We are routinely awed, amazed and rejuvenated, but proceed with respect.

    Grace, please keep up the good work, not only on your books, but on your blog. To all of you who comment, thank you. It’s mostly positive stuff, and I really appreciate it.

    It’s communication and interaction, which some of us avoid as a matter of course.

  7. I’m retired (75 yrs. old) and disabled. So although I have the time, it’s hard for me to get out, especially during the winter. As a child, my father used to take all of his children as well as other relatives, out to the countryside year round. In winter we skated on the local small lakes, playing ice hockey. During the rest of the year we hiked, picnicked, played baseball, and swam. I can take those memories out and enjoy them when I’m housebound. My house has a nice backyard with a large maple tree. I enjoy watching the tree and the critters that enter into my yard, from squirrels to birds, to rabbits, to chipmunks. During warm weather I can get sometimes get out to the parks, especially with my daughter. I always feel refreshed when I do.

  8. Sold everything and moved to be beside a lake. A migrating pair of what turns out to be those cranes they brought back from extinction dropped by to spend a layover and confirm to me that I picked a good place. They are HUGE! Watching wood ducks squabble like kids at the pool is incredibly relaxing. This morning I’m lying in bed watching big Vs of migrating birds fly over my house like those bomber formations you see in old movies.