I've travelled the world seeking answers, optimal health and to find peace of mind. Whether it was bio-energetic sessions from my naturopathic doctor, meditating in India, a 10-day silent retreat in Thailand, or an Ayahuasca ceremony in Peru, there is always one thing that I am drawn back to... nature.
When it comes to health, few things are as beneficial as being in nature. Whether climbing a mountainous terrain, swimming in a serine lake, or catching a glorious sunset, being in nature fosters well-being in infinite ways, including balancing our nervous system, impacting cardiovascular health, and influencing our mood.
Nature is as important as any diet, supplement, or exercise regime. It can be as necessary as the air we breathe... literally.
Here are four reasons why you need to get out in nature and see all it has to offer to your health. Your adventure awaits!
1. Natural Rhythms:
Our bodies are a collection of rhythmic functions; the beating of your heart, or the rate of your breathing. These rhythms are essential to the basic tenets of our health.
Nature also has a rhythm. The wind blowing through trees, the crashing of waves or the sound of birds chirping; the rhythms of nature help to calm your nervous system almost immediately and all you need to do is just stop and listen.
Did you know that the sound of birds chirping can help put our nervous system into a Parasympathic (PNS) state?
When we hear birds singing this induces feelings of relaxation, activating our PNS, or calming nervous system and helps to stimulate creativity and productivity.
Were you aware that the sound of ocean waves creates relaxation because of its rhythmic cycles?
Waves crash at approximately 12 cycles per minute, similar to our sleep rhythms. So if you have trouble sleeping get some Soundscape waves to play while you fall asleep, and let nature lull you to dreamland.
2. Let It Shine:
Vitamin D is essential to our health. It's important for mood, bone health, as well as blood sugar and immune support. Although this vitamin is supplemented in many foods the easiest way to get your daily dose is through sun exposure.
When UV B light from the sun hits our skin cells, preliminary forms of Vitamin D are activated, available for use by the body. Ideally you should be exposing your arms and legs to sunlight for 20 minutes daily before applying sunscreen.
If you live North of San Francisco, California or Richmond, Virginia you should be taking at least 1000 IU of supplemental vitamin D from October until March to ensure adequate levels. In the winter months low Vitamin D can be associated with seasonal affective disorder (SAD), and for those diagnosed with this condition, higher vitamin D supplementation may be necessary.
3. Follow Your Nose:
If you've ever smelled the aroma of a forest after a rainstorm, or the blossom of an English Rose, you understand the power that nature has when it comes to our noses. Smell is one of the most influential senses, affecting a person's mood, behaviour and physical state.
It is our "emotional sense", linked to learning, memory, emotion and language. Many smells can bring to mind positive memories, creating feelings of contentment and calmness, reduce anxiety and even promote helpfulness.
We all know, however, that certain odors have a negative effect, especially with repetitive long-term exposure. Research has shown that those who are exposed to harsh odors more frequently report increased tension, depression, anger, fatigue, confusion, and less vigor.
Getting outdoors helps to improve the oxygen content of the air you breathe and flood your olfactory system with the natural fragrances of trees, moss, grass, dirt, flowers, fresh or salt water, and clean air.
Did you know that seeing a photo from a family camping trip or even remembering positive outdoor experiences will automatically stimulate your olfactory centers to recreate the sensations of being relaxed, calm, grounded and full of energy? It's time to get out and smell the roses!
Breathing In Nature
We need to talk about oxygen; it's critical to our existence! Clean air, like water, it a fundamental right, but in many areas of the world the concentrations of air pollutants exceed dangerous levels, leaving those exposed at risk of acute and chronic health problems.
Ozone and particulate matter are the most widespread outdoor pollutants. They pose a particular concern for the young and old, as well as the exercising population, with chronic exposure contributing to asthma and other breathing difficulties.
However, don't think that staying indoors will reduce your risk of exposure!
Many low-income homes are exposed to significant indoor air pollution from the use of solid fuels for cooking and heating, producing high concentration of particular matter, carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxides and other hazardous compounds.
Your health depends on getting clean air. Try these four ways to breathe yourself to wellness.
1. Go outside: The leaves of plants and trees emit fresh oxygen, improving the quality of air. Hiking, biking, running or doing open water activities will increase gas exchange in your lungs and get your heart pumping.
2. Build an indoor garden: Gardens improve air quality and are wonderful meditative tools. Get building your indoor oasis today!
3. Use an air infiltration system: The best systems are high-efficiency particle air (HEPA) filters. HEPA filters lower amounts of indoor fine particulate matter, viruses and smoke from woodstoves.
4. Don't smoke: Cigarettes, fireplaces, BBQs, indoor woodstoves, and idling cars produce hazardous effects on air quality and the body. Quit smoking, and always use proper ventilation techniques.
There's nothing quite like getting outdoors, but so few of us take daily advantage of all that nature has to offer. It's time to strap on the hiking shoes, grab your coat and get outside today. Mother Nature really is the best medicine!
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