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5 Ways to Let Mother Nature Help Your Health

Heidi Barr

Did you know nature can help your health? Recent research has indicated that spending time in a natural setting provides a plethora of benefits; from lower blood pressure to strengthened immunity to an enhanced sense of well-being and happiness. John Haltiwanger argues, “people who appreciate nature are happier, healthier and more innovative.” It’s hard to hold onto the tension of a hectic day at the office when you are laying in the grass looking up at the sky. Spending time in natural light helps the body take in vitamin D, an essential building block of human health. And turning away from the computer screen to gaze at the horizon as the sun sets reminds us that we are part of something much bigger than our everyday worries.

Now the trick is to act on what we know and get out into nature to start reaping all of those benefits, right?  Sometimes easier said than done in a modern life that feels full to the brim. But it CAN be done. And the benefits are worth it.

  1. Walk outside first thing in the morning. No joke-even in the dead of winter or in the 100 degree humidity of a sweltering summer, a blast of frigid or steamy air will remind you that you are alive.  You might just find yourself thinking, “Hello, world! Let’s do this thing.”
  2. Raise the bar on #1 and try Forest Bathing.  (Forest what?) Forest bathing, or “Shinrin-yoku” as the practice is known in Japan, has been shown to lower cortisol levels, pulse rate, and blood pressure.  Find some local woods and spend some time there! Rewild your life just a little bit.  
  3. If Forest Bathing sounds weird, perhaps just try finding a “sit spot.”  Finding a place where you can sit and just be in a natural setting can have profound impacts on mood and your sense of well-being and connectedness. An isolated rock surrounded by forest is wonderful, but so is the stump near the lilac bush next to your garage. Don’t bring your cell phone. Make your time at your sit spot technology free.
  4. Ground yourself. It’s just like it sounds: get in direct contact with the ground — soil, grass, water, rock. Take off your shoes and stand with your feet directly on the earth and soak up the electrons that flow freely into your body, providing a potent dose of antioxidants. Can’t take off your shoes? Hug a tree. It’s already grounded and has no qualms about sharing the love.
  5. Go for a hike.  This is probably obvious, but it’s a great way to get some exercise in a fun way, and as a weight bearing exercise, it helps maintain bone density, too.  As you navigate rocky or root-filled trails, it also keeps you paying attention to where you put your feet, which keeps you mindfully in the present moment. We all know that mindfulness is one of the keys to good health, right? Right.

Now tell us: How has nature enhanced your sense of wellbeing lately?