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Natural Awakenings SW PA, Greater Pittsburgh


Dec 03, 2020 07:03AM ● By Michelle Dalnoky

It has been a challenging year. Our resilience has been tested. Our ability to be thoughtful about our community has been summoned. We know more troubles are ahead of us but I think we should use this season to focus on the joy. No matter what form your celebration of joy takes or how it has had to be modified, take in the joy as it is. If you are having a hard time seeing the joy…try to make some. I’m excited to give thanks for our abundance and celebrate Christmas and Hanukkah, but I’m also more and more interested in incorporating indigenous wisdom into my life and celebrations of joy. For me, this means celebrating nature and learning to love, respect, and really be a part of it. It takes a lot of shedding to change my way of thinking, but hopefully we have all been doing some of that lately. We all need to get to the root of things and nature is certainly intertwined in it all. We need to take care and be aware of our immune system and the immune system of our planet. If our planet isn’t healthy, neither can the species living upon it, and that includes humans. The best of American Native culture respects nature above all. Aspects of nature are symbolic and multi-functional in the Native American universe, making them valuable and pervasive in everything they practice and cultivate. Nature itself is intertwined with the society’s beliefs regarding spirituality so both act as core defining components of their understanding and way of life.


This year, I look forward to incorporating winter solstice into my joyous celebrations. Winter can seem like a dark and difficult time, but the day after which the sun will begin to shine longer certainly is an excellent cause for celebration and that’s what winter solstice is all about. This year it falls on about December 21st which seems like a great time to celebrate the path to spring and renewal. There will surely be celebrations around that you might attend but even just a special feast and acknowledgment of this turning point with some gesture, large or small that nurtures our planet. Maybe make a commitment to recycle or compost, plant a tree indoors for spring planting outside. You could even have a grand ceremony or celebration or maybe just put out some food for the wild birds or animals. There is a lot of information on Winter Solstice online and it’s really interesting reading, learning how different indigenous cultures celebrate it. In the process you will enhance your general knowledge of indigenous cultures and maybe find more ways to bring joy into your own life. No matter what our belief system is, nature is beautiful and always worth celebrating!

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Global Brief: Natural Thinking Spending Time in Nature Increases Cognitive Performance
More of our time is spent indoors than ever before. One of the ways by which nature may improve cognitive function (i.e. the acquisition of and goal-oriented use of knowledge) is by improving memory formation and recall, specifically that of short-term or working memory, and goal-oriented or directed attention; the kind that requires focused effort. By comparing and contrasting 13 studies, a team of researchers has shed light on this complex interaction in research published in Frontiers in Psychology. The studies used the backwards digit span task, which requires participants to invert a series of numbers and repeat them back. All demonstrated significantly improved cognition in nature as compared to urban environments. The benefits of studies like this are two-fold: not only are we learning more about how the brain interacts with its environment, but also how to leverage this interaction to lead healthier, more productive and happier lives.
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