It’s time to reconsider and renew your relationship with the natural world.
Think about your connection to nature – how often do you spend time outdoors? Not commuting or running errands, but with the deliberate intent to be with nature.
Even though studies show that even 30 minutes outdoors can boost vitality levels and curb depression, most adults are spending less time outside. And only 6% of our children, aged 9-13, are playing outdoors in a typical week.
We all need to be part of the natural world because we are part of the natural world. Our growing estrangement from nature is unhealthy for body and mind; the gulf between us fraying our bond.
Regular, direct contact with the natural world can soothe, heal and uplift us.
The word naturopathy was created from ‘natura’ meaning ‘birth’ and ‘patho’ referring to ‘suffering’ to suggest ‘natural healing’. Naturopathy is a large system of theories to support the body’s own capacity to achieve optimal health and facilitate the body’s healing mechanisms. It stimulates the body’s natural healing processes by ridding it of waste products and toxins.
Every time I pay close attention to the natural world, I learn something new. I can take a low-energy spirit and transform it by taking a mindful walk in the woods or in a park. I realise (once again) that with a few deep breaths (especially when I catch a whiff of a wet woodland or wildflowers, I can revive my spirits in an instant. There’s magic there – even if it’s just the sound of a single bird chirping on a tree branch in your backyard or on an urban windowsill.
IT CAN LOWER BLOOD PRESSURE
Spending time outside is good for the heart, research shows.Visiting green spaces may be a simple and affordable way to improve heart health. A large June 2016 study found that nearly 10% of people with high blood pressure could get their hypertension under control if they spent just 30 minutes or more in a park each week. The fresh air could be one factor, since air pollution has been linked to a higher risk for heart attacks. Scientists think stress reduction also plays a part. It requires effortless attention to look at the leaves of a tree, unlike the constant emails at work or the chores at home.
Trees’ natural fragrance may also play a role, as some studies have shown that phytoncides lower blood pressure by quelling the body’s fight-or-flight response, which stresses the body.
IT PROMOTES CANCER-FIGHTING CELLS
An April 2016 study published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives reported that women living in areas with a lot of vegetation had a 12% lower risk of death from all causes compared with people in the least green places. That could be thanks to cleaner air, but nature may also offer its own medicine. Research shows that when people walk through a forest, they inhale phytoncides that increase their number of natural killer (NK) cells–a type of white blood cell that supports the immune system and is associated with a lower risk of cancer. NK cells are also thought to have a role in combating infections and autoimmune disorders and tamping down inflammation, which contributes to a wide range of ailments, including heart disease and diabetes.
EVEN FAKE NATURE HAS BENEFITS
Before you start planning your escape to the countryside, consider this:
Research shows that even if they’re artificial, the images, sounds and smells of nature can have positive health effects. Listening to nature sounds over headphones, for instance, has been shown to help people recover faster from stress–which might explain why so many spas employ nature sounds in their treatment rooms.
Several studies have also shown that having a window view can improve attention, reduce stress and even help people in hospitals heal after operations. One widely cited study of people recovering from abdominal surgery found that those with tree-lined views were released faster from the hospital, experienced fewer complications and required less pain medication than people whose rooms faced a brick wall.
Nature will heal us but as with any other healthy relationship, there must be reciprocity. The U.N.’s latest report on climate change is alarming and clear. It lays out where we are and what must be done – but the window for intervention is closing.
We must pay close attention to our mutual needs.