There’s something about the smell of fresh air, trees, and dirt; the impact the colors and views of nature have on our eyes; the ways our nervous system recalibrates when it hears the subtle sounds of birds and a breeze passing through leaves. All of it positively affects our mood, stress levels, and perspective and allows us to feel connected to the earth and to the larger experience of being human on this planet

-Ellen Vora, MD holistic psychiatrist and certified yoga instructor

Spending time in nature feels good and research backs it up. Fresh air, open spaces, natural beauty, calming sounds, immersion in the pulsating energies of nature are connected to increased feelings of wellbeing, including life satisfaction, vitality and happiness.130 Days Wild: Development and Evaluation of a Large-Scale Nature Engagement Campaign to Improve Well-Being, Richardson, M., et. al., PLoS One. 2016 Feb 18;11(2):e0149777. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0149777. eCollection 2016. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26890891

Makes sense, especially when you consider, by contrast, how much time we spend indoors. A study by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) shows that most Americans spend 93% of the time indoors where the air is often way more polluted than outdoor air.2The Inside Story: A Guide to Indoor Air Quality, EPA,https://www.epa.gov/indoor-air-quality-iaq/inside-story-guide-indoor-air-quality

In addition to formaldehyde, radon, lead, asbestos and other common, harmful chemicals, studies show that more than half of all buildings — homes and office buildings — are polluted with mold, which is increasingly found to be at the root of persistent health challenges.3Over 50% of U.S. Homes and 85% of Commercial Buildings Have Water Damage and Mold, https://www.moldsafesolutions.com/homes-commercial-buildings-mold/ Getting outside is sounding better all the time!

Spending just a little time in nature has profound health benefits:

  • Improved immune function
  • Increased natural killer cell (NK) function (anti-cancer)
  • Reduced inflammation
  • Lowered blood pressure
  • Lessened pain
  • Improved cardiovascular & respiratory systems
  • improved vitality and mood
  • Reduced anxiety
  • Better attention capacity
  • Increased energy
  • Faster recovery from illness and surgery

When we get into nature, away from man-made lights, we connect with our primitive rhythms, and our circadian cycles synchronize; that helps our bodies function better. Increased vitamin D from sunlight supports better immune function, increased melatonin production from natural darkness leads to better sleep, and our stress hormone, cortisol follows its natural pattern of rising in the morning and falling at night.4Your Body’s Internal Clock and How It Affects Your Overall Health, Alice G. Walton, MAR 20, 2012, The Atlantic, https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2012/03/your-bodys-internal-clock-and-how-it-affects-your-overall-health/254518/

Triple board-certified MD and gut expert, Zach Bush says,

One of the best things we can do to support our microbiomes is to get outside in diverse environments and just breathe.

You may be wondering how you can connect with primitive, healing rhythms — especially if you live and work in an urban setting.

Simple Strategies Synchronize Circadian Rhythms

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    Get Some Morning Sun

    Get outside within 30 minutes of waking to reset your circadian rhythm. To stay on the 24-hour light-dark cycle, your brain needs the input of sunlight through your eyes to reset itself each day. Take a morning walk or just find a sunny spot and soak up 10 – 20 minutes of sun without sunscreen, sunglasses or many clothes to expose your eyes and skin to beneficial sun rays. If getting outside or getting sun is not an option for you, consider using a Portable Light Therapy box like Verilux Happylight.

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    Try Forest Bathing

    Do what health-conscious Japanese do and soak up the healing energy of trees. The Japanese term is “shinrin-yoku” which literally translates to “forest bathing.” Studies show that just hanging out in or simply strolling under a canopy of trees can stimulate the production of natural killer (NK) cells which improves immune strength and helps combat cancer.5Shinrin-Yoku (Forest Bathing) and Nature Therapy: A State-of-the-Art Review, Hanson, M., et. al., Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2017 Aug; 14(8): 851., Published online 2017 Jul 28. doi: 10.3390/ijerph14080851; https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5580555/

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    Take a Hike

    No matter your fitness level you can find a hike that works for you. Steep, flat, downhill, short or long; each provides health benefits. More hills mean more of a cardio workout. More uneven terrain engages your core muscles and balance skills. More downhill offers the surprising benefit of lowering your blood sugar levels. In any event, just being out on a trail helps to relieve stress.

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    Walk Barefoot

    The Earth’s surface contains a limitless and continuously renewed supply of free electrons. Mounting evidence suggests that soaking up these negative electrons promotes optimal functioning of all body systems. Earthing, or grounding as it’s sometimes called, reduces inflammation, lowers blood pressure, diminishes pain and improves immune response, fasting glucose and even sleep. Research shows regular “earthing” may improve cardiovascular arrhythmias and autoimmune conditions like lupus, multiple sclerosis, and rheumatoid arthritis. 6Earthing: Health Implications of Reconnecting the Human Body to the Earth’s Surface Electrons, Chevalier, G., et. al., J Environ Public Health. 2012; 2012: 291541.
    Published online 2012 Jan 12. doi: 10.1155/2012/291541, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3265077/
     Rubber soles disconnect us from nourishing negative electrons, but going barefoot, especially on dewy, non-chemically treated grass, connects us to earth’s free healing energies.

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    Go Camping

    Modern lifestyle has increasingly separated us from the primordial flow of Earth’s electrons. Another way to soak up even more of Mother Earth’s healing energies is to sleep outside. Some of the best nights’ sleep I’ve ever had has been while camping — not necessarily at altitude or while backpacking, but simple car camping with a decent sleeping pad or air mattress. By unplugging from technology, sleep-interfering blue light and getting away from electro-pollution from always-on devices, our bodies, minds and spirits get a much-needed break. And, when you have a full dome of stars over your head, you might even broaden your perspective, which is usually a very good thing.

As we step away from our devices and embrace nature — whether under a canopy of trees, on a wilderness trail, by a lake, a beach, or a green park, breathe in better air and soak up the invisible energies, we become calmer, rejuvenated and restored, and those are excellent autoimmune healing strategies.

What’s your experience? Do you prioritize time in nature?

Take good care!

p.s. Before you go, please accept our FREE gift: Your Optimal Food Guide ebook, which can help you figure out which foods can help you reverse autoimmune conditions or just optimize your health.

p.s.s. And, if you are proactively seeking to heal from any autoimmune condition and want community, support and valuable information, please join our free, private Facebook group: Transcend Autoimmune.

For more information about the importance of relaxation, check out Relax To Heal From Autoimmune Conditions.

Image Credit: Jake Sloop