Spending two hours a week in nature watching birds, tending to plants or gardens, sitting by a window with a view of trees or a garden can cut the fatigue that is often associated with cancer treatment. This comes from research in the journal Cancer Nursing. Here’s what I said about it in an article I wrote in Mamm on cancer anxiety:
Research published in 2003 in the journal Cancer Nursing suggests one way to overcome attention problems that’s as simple as, well, a walk in the park. Bernadine Cimprich, R.N., Ph.D., the study’s lead author, studied mental fatigue in a group of women with newly diagnosed breast cancer. They agreed to follow a structured program of “natural intervention,” spending two hours a week in nature—watching birds or trees, tending to plants or gardens. They were also instructed to give their full attention to their surroundings, rather than listening to an iPod or planning a work meeting. The women took standard cognitive tests before intervention began, after surgery, then three, six and twelve months afterward. As compared to patients treated without any nature therapy, participants showed better sustained recovery of their attention skills.
Cimprich, associate professor at the University of Michigan School of Nursing in Ann Arbor, says that the stress of dealing with breast cancer can lead to “attention fatigue,” and that nature therapy helps relax the parts of the brain that help to focus actively on tasks. Catherine Vincent, R.N., Ph.D., was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2003 while working on a postgraduate fellowship with Cimprich, so using natural intervention was a logical approach as she went on her daily walks. “I just inhaled the outdoors,” says Vincent, 59, assistant professor of maternal-child nursing at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Her cancer treatment—which included chemotherapy—went smoothly, which she attributes to the conscious rest she gave her brain. “I know part of it was really paying attention to what I needed,” she says. “Part of it was restoration through natural intervention.” Read more here.