Time in Nature is Good Medicine
Nature heals. It provides balance. It’s calming when you’re feeling overwhelmed and energizing when you’re feeling down. Science shows that spending time in nature even provides hormonal balance and pain relief.
In a study where 18,500 participants were asked to “do something wild” every day for 30 days, there was a 30% increase in participants who rated their health as “excellent.”
Here’s how Pedram Shojai puts it in his book, The Art of Stopping Time:
“Life: It’s all around you. You’re breathing it in right now as you’re reading this. Millions of bacteria and viruses just entered your lungs and are all over your skin. They help you interact with the natural world all around you. They help defend against invaders. They are part of the ecosystem of your body, which is part of the ecosystem of the planet. This is all going on while you go through your day, millions upon millions of life-forms living their lives, oblivious to your bills or petty dramas.”
Other Ways Nature Heals
The Power of Sunlight
The sun’s rays provide Vitamin D. Vitamin D promotes bone health, improves blood flow, elevates mood, lowers blood pressure, and reduces the risk of numerous diseases, including cancer and diabetes. The sun also provides the natural light that helps regulate your body’s natural rhythm. Getting outside first thing in the morning not only helps wake you up, but it’s proven to help you sleep better as well.
Nature’s Calming Effect
Unplugging from electronics, especially those delivering emails and other messages throughout the day, provides a chance to destress and lower heart rates. Nature provides an opportunity to get away from causes of anxiety and stress and see things in a new perspective, promoting steadier moods. This also leads to clearer thinking as we take a step back from busy lives and breathe the fresh air or listen to the birds sing.
Indoor air is often many times more polluted then outdoor air. So when we get outside, the natural reaction is to breathe more deeply. This engages the parasympathetic nervous system (the opposite of fight or flight), providing a calming sensation. The negative ion-rich oxygen in fresh outdoor air, and even in soil bacteria, elevates serotonin. Serotonin benefits mood, memory and social behavior.
Nature Makes You a Better Person
Besides all the benefits to your personal health, recent studies have shown that exposure to the natural world makes people more generous, trusting, optimistic and helpful. So as it turns out, nature heals relationships as well.
How to Spend More Time in Nature
For some of us, time in nature might sound nice but feel unrealistic. You don’t have to go camping for a week, climb a mountain, or retreat at the beach to benefit from nature’s healing energy. Just step outside. Here are some ideas:
Make it a part of your daily routine.
Pick something you do every day, and start doing it outside. I drink my morning coffee on the back deck, open my mail on the front porch, and take my phone calls outside.
Have the right attire.
This doesn’t mean you have to go out and spend a bunch of money on fancy outdoor gear, but if you have a sweater you love to wear you’re more likely to go out in the cold. Be prepared to spend time outside comfortably all year long.
Schedule outdoor activities.
Find something for every season that you can look forward to doing on a regular basis. Maybe team sports in the spring, water sports in the summer, biking in the fall, snow sports in the winter. Put it on your calendar so it doesn’t get pushed aside for more “pressing” activities.
Go for a walk every day.
Make walking a part of your daily routine. Plan a walking meeting, walk while catching up with a friend either on the phone or in person, adopt a dog or walk a neighbor’s dog. Just get out there and move.
Get out of the car.
Walk or bike to your destination when possible. If you can’t, then park a few blocks away so you can get a little exercise in the fresh air.
Take your exercise routine outdoors.
Even if you have a very small outdoor area, many types of exercise can be done outside. Get creative and see if you can do your HIIT, yoga, tai chi, or weight training out in fresh air.
Nature is Your Source
As far as I can tell, whether you believe in the Big Bang theory or another creation story, the conclusion to draw is the same. Simply put, we are all connected. We come from the same source. All of nature is, in effect, related. When you allow yourself to simply be present in nature, your ego melts away and you become one with your surroundings.
This post is part of a series following the 100-day gong practice developed by Pedram Shojai for The Art of Stopping Time. If you would like to read other posts in the series, click here. If you would like to receive emails following the series from the beginning, click here.