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The Undeniable Connection Between Nature and Healing

earthing, forest bathing, get outside, grounding, healing, nature

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Why is it that we feel so refreshed after a day by the ocean or soaking in the sunshine? Why do we feel so rejuvenated when we spend time amidst the trees?  

Nature: the world’s most precious and potent healer.

In the words of Hippocrates, “Nature itself is the best physician.”

Nature is a powerful remedy for various physical, mental and emotional ailments. Best of all, it’s entirely free and only really requires that you step outside. We all can attest that when we spend more time outdoors we feel better both physically, mentally and spiritually. Carving out some time to spend in nature can do wonders for our overall health, especially for those of us who find ourselves constantly glued to a screen or sitting behind a desk. While the era of the digital age is certainly one that brings more connection than ever before, our connection to nature is ultimately far more advantageous.

We need nature and healing now more than ever, especially considering we spend about 90 percent of our time indoors. We spend so much time cooped up inside and this can lead to increased anxiety, feelings of unease, and various other health concerns, especially in teens and young adults. Ironically the world of social media can be an isolating and even depressing place and research continues to reveal that spending so much time on our phones can have some serious consequences.  

Furthermore, the blue wavelength light emitted by the LED’s in our phones, flat-screen TV’s and computers can affect our circadian rhythms that signal to our brains when it’s time for sleep. With the constant bright light, we’re essentially tricking our bodies into thinking that it’s always noon; we, therefore, stop producing melatonin. When we step away from the screen and tune into the rhythms of nature, however, our bodies come into balance and our mental state shifts.    

Why is it that we feel so refreshed after a day by the ocean or soaking in the sunshine? Why do we feel so rejuvenated when we spend time amidst the trees?  

But are nature and healing really connected?

Countless research shows that nature and healing are, in fact, synonymous. One such study found that those who went on a 90-minute walk in a natural environment reported less obsessive thinking that often leads to depressive or anxious states. About 50 percent of Americans live in urban settings and this number is only expecting to rise, making that medicinal dose of nature all the more crucial for our overall well-being.

Another benefit of being outside — exposing our skin to sunlight prompts our body to produce its own Vitamin D. This is important, as many of us are deficient in Vitamin D, with nearly half of all Americans and 1 billion (yes, billion!) people worldwide with levels that are too low. This is a jarring statistic, considering how crucial it is for our health. We need Vitamin D to absorb calcium and maintain proper bone health. It also helps stabilize our melatonin levels. Deficiency has been linked to a number of different health concerns, including fatigue, depression and bone loss, to name a few.

We spend so much time indoors at a desk or watching television that we’re forgetting that nature and healing go hand in hand. We’re forgetting that just a few minutes outside can be the medicine we need for our physical, mental, and emotional well-being. We don’t need another vitamin or supplement, we need sunshine and fresh air.

Doctors are even coming to this realization, with medical professionals even prescribing time outside as a form of therapy. Dr. Nooshin Razani, founder and director of the Center for Nature and Health out of UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital – Oakland, is a major advocate in bridging the gap between nature and healing. She’s researched the correlation between stress levels and time in nature and, as a result, has created numerous campaigns to encourage people to get outside and experience nature’s therapeutic properties. Her program Stay Healthy in Nature Everyday (SHINE) has been instrumental in prescribing patients to get outside to improve their overall health. Watch her compelling TedTalk here.

In Japan, shinrin yoku or “forest bathing” has been recognized as a soothing and restorative healing modality since the 1980s. Scientifically proven benefits include: increased energy, less stress, lower blood pressure, better sleep, and strengthened immune system. The practice involves spending time in a forest atmosphere, fully immersing yourself in your surroundings with all five senses, and walking with presence and intention.

If a forest isn’t nearby, you can also walk around a local park, although forest environments have been found to be more significant in lowering blood pressure than urban environments. By simply being in nature, the body is rejuvenated and the mind is at ease. Bonus points if you take your shoes off and sink your bare feet into the earth. Science has shown that this direct physical contact reduces inflammation by transferring negatively charged antioxidant electrons from the earth to the body.

If you can’t get outside every day, consider bringing the great outdoors to you. Bring plants into your home and your office to create a restorative sanctuary.

One study found that even indoor plants have immense healing powers. When plants were placed in hospital rooms, patients were found to recover quicker, required less medication, and had better attitudes overall. Indoor plants improve air quality, reduce stress and boost concentration and mood. Plus, they spruce up any interior!

Getting outside to experience nature reminds us to slow down, be present, and appreciate our surroundings. You may even find that the problems and worries you experience in your everyday life aren’t as problematic as you initially thought. When we experience the grandeur and wonder of nature, our perspective shifts almost instantly. Nature heals. The more time we spend outdoors, the better we’ll feel.

Commit to getting outside more and experience the undeniable connection between nature and healing for yourself.  

Want to learn more about the benefits of being in nature? Explore more in the TelMD Upstream Blog.

Let’s Make Wellness Contagious!™

 

earthing, forest bathing, get outside, grounding, healing, nature

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