WildHope Digital Magazine Spring 2013 : Page 38

YOUR BRAIN ON OCEAN THERAPY By Dr. Wallace J Nichols Members of the medical profession have long known that stress promotes disease and that natural environments can reduce stress and stimulate healing. These ideas have already made the chasm leap from fringe to mainstream. When designing modern medical centers, architects know how important it is to include green courtyards, large windows that let in plenty of light, spaces for contemplation and intimate conversation, and fountains or water elements. Budgets don’t always allow the ideal designs to make it to reality, but the strategies are commonly considered and increasingly deployed. Even dentists’ offices have the routine down to a science: An aquarium and photographs of serene natural settings often dominate waiting rooms. But nothing beats the real thing. The science lags behind a bit, but getting outside in nature can be a radical act of healing. Most studies on the topic have focused on forests and other dry land environs, but when water is added, the cognitive benefits increase. I recently spent a week with the fine team at Operation Surf, surfing with a group of active-duty members of the military with a range of combat-related injuries. Most involve the loss of one or more limbs and the associated stress, frustration, and mental challenges that accompany such physical trauma. 38

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