Put Your Face in Nature
When I was dealing with some pretty bad anxiety a few years ago my yoga teacher gave me an assignment. She told me I had to put my “face in nature” every single day. Rain or shine. Anxious or not. It didn’t have to be for an hour, or even half an hour. Just ten minutes. If it’s raining, she said, grab an umbrella. If it’s snowing, put on snow pants. Whatever it takes.
It saved me.
More and more research is showing the benefits of getting yourself into nature.
In fact, getting into nature on a regular basis is one of the simplest things you can do to improve your health.
The first and perhaps the most important benefit of getting outside is sunlight exposure which allows you to get the vitamin D that your body needs. Adequate vitamin D intake is necessary for a properly functioning immune system, to build strong and healthy bones, for regulating blood sugar levels, and in regulating blood pressure. To learn more about vitamin D you can check out an earlier post here.
Being in the ocean or in contact with the Earth is another great way to get a benefit from nature.
The ocean is a large antioxidant; it contains free electrons which are absorbed into your body when you spend time in the water. These free electrons neutralize free radicals, molecules that can do damage on the cellular level. You may have heard of antioxidant supplements and antioxidants in food? When direct contact with the Ocean you also get antioxidants. For free!
But it gets better! Dirt and damp soil also contains free electrons—in a virtually limitless supply! So if you make time to be in direct contact with the Earth, your may see the benefits of antioxidants including improved sleep, blood oxygenation, heart rate variability, and an enhanced immune system while also reducing pain, anxiety, irritability, and inflammation.
If you cannot swim in an ocean and walking barefoot on the ground is not your thing, there are still many other benefits to being outdoors. Being in nature reduces stress, improves mental health, increase productivity, decreases exposure to air pollution, and has even been shown to reduce the symptoms of ADD and ADHD.
Several studies have shown that spending time in nature can improve sleep quality.
When we spend time in a natural setting we are, in essence, getting back to our roots. Our distant ancestors spent all of their time outside. As humans, we are meant to be in this type of natural setting. Our circadian rhythms, or biological clocks, work by synchronizing with day and night cycles. Our bodies function most effectively when we are in-tune with these day and night cycles. Our bodies use these cycles to regulate the release of hormones, in neurotransmitter production, digestion, and body temperature. By getting outside we are allowing our bodies to recalibrate.
It’s important, even in the winter to make sure you get outside! Even if it’s just a few minutes a day (the more the better!) you are likely to find that your anxiety will be decreased, you will ruminate less, your mood will improve, and if you have symptoms of seasonal depression, they will be reduced. There are so many beautiful green spaces around us, whether you live in Portland like I do, or in another part of the world. And if there isn’t one right around the corner, can you find a tiny patch of green or a park to visit at least here and there?
What can you do to find more time to spend in nature?
Yours in Health,