The Brain and Forest Connection: Life Among the Trees
Phelan Webber Pettis P.S. is a law firm dedicated to planning. Even a cursory visit to our website (pwpelderlaw.com) demonstrates our commitment to this. Every day, we work with our clients to design and implement powerful plans that best protect them and enable them to sustain a great quality of life for themselves and those they love. Planning gives our clients peace of mind. After working with them, we hear exclamations like:
• “Oh, I just feel so good now that everything is in place!”
• “It’s a load off my mind that we’ve got a plan!”
• “I didn’t even know that was possible! I am so glad we found your office!”
• “Now I know that even if I get sick, or hit by a bus, my kids know what to do.”
• “I’m just so glad we’ll both be okay, and one of us won’t be left with nothing if the other gets sick!”
• “I’m just glad there is a way to make our assets last; so many other places told us we just had to spend-down.”
• “Now, no matter what happens, I know my family will be okay and I’ll be okay.”
Peace of mind. It’s one of the things we regularly discuss here, and it’s a goal every client has when speaking of their wishes for their own lives and the lives of their loved ones. Although we ponder this concept every day, we were curious about the intersection of peace of mind and our modern way of life, so we did a little reading and discovered something called the Three-Day Effect. Perhaps you’ve heard of it? If not, allow us to share what we learned…
Think back to a moment or time when you were stressed or troubled. Now consider where you were when the stress began to pass, when you felt a fresh perspective come to you, or experienced a shift in your breathing, when calm crept in to settle your frayed nerves. Was there an ocean nearby? A river? Were you surrounded by trees? Standing beneath a brilliant blue sky dotted with puffy, white clouds lazily drifting past? Were you gazing over a field of wildflowers (or lying amongst them)?
Do you feel slightly calmer just reading about those scenes?
If so, there’s a reason for it. Modern life bombards us every day, demanding our attention, and a number of scientific studies have shown that nature is the antidote to the brain fatigue induced by these demands.
When you spend a minimum of three days in nature, the frontal cortex of your brain relaxes and gives the rest of your brain a chance to breathe and re-energize. We become better at empathizing, creating, and perceiving our surroundings. Various studies have come to the common conclusion that three days is the magic number to let the brain re-energize. On the first two days, your brain is slowly filing away and clearing out the clutter piled up by the wildness of modern civilization. But by the third day, the wildness of nature takes over and allows your brain to enjoy the fullness of life. You return home better able to creatively solve problems, relate to those you know, and more confidently face the things you may be avoiding.
We often think about our brain health, especially as we grow older, and this can be scary sometimes. According to the Alzheimer’s Association¹ and Genworth²:
• 5.7 million Americans of all ages are living with Alzheimer’s dementia in 2018.
• 1 in 10 people aged 65 and over has Alzheimer’s dementia.
• Healthcare spending in the U.S. is “more than twice the average of other developed countries.”
• Americans have lower life expectancies and higher rates of chronic illnesses than many other developed countries.
• In 2018, the average cost of skilled nursing care in Washington state is over $9,000 a month!
It’s no wonder we sometimes worry about dementia or about developing some other long-term care need. But consider—do we pause to be thankful for the health we have now? Do we act to help optimize our brain health while we have it? It can be difficult to face the realities of aging. Are we avoiding taking the action we know we must take to protect ourselves and our loved ones in case we get sick?
Maybe we need a nature break, a time to wander among the trees and approach what worries us with a better, fresher perspective. So as the sun comes out more and more each day this summer, go out into the wild world and reap the benefits of its calm-inducing effects. Let it work its way into your mind to clear out the accumulated clutter and concern that weigh you down. And when you’re re-energized, give us a call. We stand ready to help you plan for this important time in your life, and to work with you to find a lasting peace of mind regarding your future.
Beckie J. Pettis is a Washington attorney with the firm Phelan Webber Pettis P.S. The firm focuses on estate planning, with a special focus on planning for the 2nd half of life. The firm also assists with trust administration, Washington probate, guardianship, special needs planning, and Medicaid planning.