Get Out in Nature to Change Your Brain
Researchers believe that spending time in nature can offer many health benefits, especially for those dealing with mental illness.

Researchers believe that spending time in nature can offer many health benefits, especially for those dealing with mental illness.

More than 50 percent of people live in urban areas. This number is projected to increase to about 70 percent by the year 2050. Urbanization is linked with progressive mental illnesses, but researchers do not understand why. A recent study found that the participants who spent about 90 minutes in nature had less neural activity in the area of the brain associated with mental illness over those who just walked through urbanized areas. These researchers believe that spending time in nature can offer many health benefits, especially for those dealing with ADHD, anxiety or depression. In an earlier study, psychologists asked participants to spend four days in a nature setting without access to technology. At the end of the four days, the participants had a 50 percent increase in their creative thinking and ability to solve complex problems. These researchers believe that noisy and polluted environments negatively impact the brain.

Activity in Nature Is the Best

Most of us are aware that exercise increases our ability to deal with stress. In another study, researchers at the University of British Columbia found that light aerobic exercise increased spatial and episodic memory in older women. Not only is getting out in nature good for your brain, but when you actively do something that increases your heart rate and moves your muscles, it has increased benefits of releasing endorphins, boosting mental power and reducing anxiety.

Other researchers have studied the effects of nature on ADHD symptoms. Dr. Frances E. Kuo and Dr. Andrea Faber Taylor found that activities carried out in natural green environments had the effect of reducing ADHD symptoms. Their findings held consistent with both genders, different ages, severity of diagnosis and across geographic locations. Children with ADHD had better attention spans after spending time in nature. Kuo and Taylor suggest encouraging kids with limited focus to play in “greenspaces” as a supplement to traditional treatment.

One PhD with Texas A&M University found that nature helps the body heal faster. Patients who had just gone through abdominal surgery were studied based on the view out their window. Those who could see trees and nature out their window healed faster and had fewer complications than those whose window overlooked a brick wall. It’s believed that greenery and fountains in hospitals also assist in healing. Some researchers have suggested incorporating nature views and pictures in rooms where a natural view is impossible. Many architects are incorporating this research into newer designs, not only in healthcare settings, but in workplaces and schools as well.

Getting Started

Canada has a wealth of parks and recreation areas where families can go to experience nature for themselves. Just like if you were starting an exercise program, you don’t want to be too intense at first. Hiking is a great activity that everyone can usually enjoy. You might even be able to take the family dog with you. However, you shouldn’t tackle that 5-mile hike until you’ve completed a shorter hike once or twice. Make sure you have the right equipment. Another reason hiking is popular to get out in nature is that you usually only need some good shoes, a hat, a water bottle and layered clothing. Most people have this equipment on hand.

When you’re out in nature, put the cell phone in your backpack or leave it in your car. Talk to those you’re with and enjoy the view. Get away from your technology and urban life every so often to refresh your mind and heal your body. If you can’t get to one of the great national parks, find a local park where you can walk. Even those small pockets of green have been found to have a positive effect on your mind and body.


Saint Francis and Animal Blessings
Saint Francis of Assisi

After his death, Saint Francis was made the patron saint of animals and ecology.

If you’re one of the millions of people who enjoy animal videos online, you’re going to appreciate Saint Francis of Assisi. He lived in the late 12th century into the 13th century, during a time of great unrest in the Middle East. Francis upset his family when his life took a turn toward poverty and the priesthood. He would renounce his wealth and his family in order to serve God. When Francis was canonized after his death, he was made the patron saint of animals and ecology. His love of nature and all creatures makes him someone to remember even today. 

Saint Francis and His Legacy

In 1989, Liliana Cavani directed Mickey Rourke in “Francesco,” an Italian film which follows Francis’ life from a son of a wealthy silk merchant in Italy to a soldier in the army who would be captured in a war. Francis would later become a humanitarian and give up his family’s wealth to serve God. The film won three major awards and is a great representation of his life.

During the Fifth Crusade, Francis would attempt to mediate peace between the Christians and Muslims. Although he was unsuccessful, the Franciscans, his order of monks, were given permission to have a presence in the Holy Land. Since the 13th century, the Franciscans have almost steadily been the “Custodians of the Holy Land” for the Catholic Church.

El Greco painted a beautiful rendition of “Saint Francis Receiving the Stigmata.” Saint Francis is said to have received five wounds similar to those that Christ received when he hung on the cross. Although many historians now believe he was stricken with leprosy, at the time it was considered to be a sign of exceptional religious faith.

Saint Francis has inspired many other works of art and music. As recently as 2005, Lewis Nielson composed a concerto for violin, called, “St. Francis Preaches to the Birds.” One of Bernard Malamud’s novels features a main character who lives the life of Saint Francis in Brooklyn during the 20th century.

Francis is remembered as a great poet and writer. Not only do his poems and works have religious value, but also literary value. This is the first few lines of “Canticle of the Sun,” believed to be one of the first works of literature written in Italian:

“Most high, all powerful, all good Lord!

All praise is Yours, all glory, all honor, and all blessing.

“To You, alone, Most High, do they belong.

No mortal lips are worthy to pronounce Your name.

“Be praised, my Lord, through all Your creatures,

especially through my lord Brother Sun,

who brings the day; and You give light through him.

And he is beautiful and radiant in all his splendor!

Of You, Most High, he bears the likeness.”

It was written in the Umbrian dialect and translated into English for us to appreciate.

Your Pet Is an Important Member of Your Family

The church celebrates Saint Francis of Assisi on October 4, commonly with services that include blessings for animals. In many paintings, Saint Francis is portrayed with a bird in his hand because legend has it that he commanded the animals. One legend tells the tale of a wolf who lay down at his feet. Francis is thought to have worked out a pact with the wolf and the town dogs to protect the townspeople. He blessed the wolf.

Pope John Paul II referenced Saint Francis in 1982 on World Environment Day, reminding people to care and to love all of creation, to offer a healthy environment for those who come after us. Everyone can get behind being green and eco-conscious to protect our animals and the plants. You don’t have to be Christian to appreciate Saint Francis of Assisi.

Top Wedding Destinations in Canada

Recently married couple poses in the snow, johnhope14

Recently married couple poses in the snow

Canada boasts some of the top weddings destinations on the planet.  World-class metropolitan areas such as Toronto and Vancouver offer almost unprecedented cultural diversity, variety, and wedding opportunities.  In addition, nearby areas such as Whistler offer an ideal setting for snowy weddings, and winter weddings can be held comfortably aboard larger vessels on the Pacific Northwest coastline.

Below is a list of three very distinct Canadian wedding destinations that have the ability to transform almost any wedding ceremony into a truly memorable event:

·        The City of Toronto

In addition to being the fourth largest city in North America, Toronto has an extensive mass transit system that connects multiple neighborhoods including Polish Town, Little India, Greek Town, and multiple China Towns.  The city offers numerous traditional wedding venues as well as unparalleled religious and cultural diversity.  Couples can easily find ways to stay true to family culture and religious values while enjoying globally recognized art, dining, and accommodations.  Toronto is a winter wedding destination that offers a truly unique urban adventure.  The chilly winter conditions are usually less of an issue due to clean underground sidewalks and multiple indoor venues with spectacular views of the city skyline or Lake Huron.

·        Whistler, British Columbia

Whistler is located in the scenic mountains outside of Vancouver.  Whistler offers world-class skiing, resorts that specialize in winter weddings, and a prime location.  Like Toronto, Vancouver is a metropolitan area rich in cultural and religious diversity.  Vancouver has been nicknamed “the city of glass” due to its many impressive glass skyscrapers.  Only a short drive away from a phenomenal metropolitan area, Whistler has some of the best skiing and winter lodging on the planet for snowy weddings.

·        Maritime Weddings on the Northwest Coast

Some couples have an undying love for the ocean.  The Northwest Coast of Canada can offer fantastic winter maritime weddings.  Instead of embarking on an urban or Mountain adventure, couples can be married aboard private cruises that offer fine dining, top accommodations, and unparalleled scenery.  Unlike many parts of the East Coast or far North, the Northwest Pacific typically does not freeze.  There are ample opportunities to comfortably view marine life, natural wonders, and enjoy the serenity of the sea.

What to Look for in Destination Weddings

There are a number of considerations that should be taken into account before planning a destination wedding.  A few primary considerations are listed below:

  • Is the destination easily accessible for guests and others associated with the wedding?
  • Does the destination offer venues that meet religious and cultural needs?
  • Does the destination offer a chance for couples to afford the perfect wedding?

Winter Weddings in Canada are Recognized Among the Best

Besides boasting major cultural meccas and globally recognized destinations, Canada has something unique to offer.  Canada has a marked history of cultural diversity and eagerness to embrace different religions as well as progressive social change.  Canadians are known for being extraordinarily polite, and courtesy is a general hallmark of Canadian culture.  Canada is a very welcoming country with ample opportunities to create the perfect wedding for almost any couple. Whatever your dream winter wedding is, there are likely multiple Canadian wedding destinations that can turn that dream into a reality.