Be Nature-ly – The Impact of Being in Nature on our Health

In the modern world we have been spending less and less time outside and in nature. On Average, Americans spend about 90% of their time indoors. For a species that used to spend the majority of their time outdoors, this can have an impact on our health and how we relate to the world.

Spending more time indoors also increases our exposure to indoor pollutants which are 2-5 times higher than outdoor pollutants. Indoor concentrations of some pollutants have actually increased in recent decades due to energy-efficient buildings (decreased air flow and ventilation) and increased use of synthetic building materials, furnishings, personal products, pesticides and house cleaners.

Healing in Nature

As I found myself struggling with a variety of health issues from an indoor pollutant, my body craved spending more time outdoors and our family ended up spending most of the summer outdoors in a tipi in our backyard. My body loved absorbing the energies of the sun, breathing in the fresh air, feeling a light breeze and connecting to the energy of light and dark. But as forest fires led to an increase in outdoor air pollution and the season of cooler weather and rain set in, I found myself spending a lot less time outside.

Gradually with time we found the indoor pollutant was still affecting our health. Needing to remove the source of pollutant and worsening health symptoms my energy and mood plummeted. I was hanging on to life in a way I never would have imagined. I realized I needed to get outdoors and connect with the healing benefits of nature. At a low point I went for an easy hike on a local trail with a friend and my nervous system calmed down. I could breathe fully. I felt grounded and a new sense of clarity. I found a tree inviting me to connect and I walked over to fully embrace it’s large form. The tree and I connected. We are one. We are here to support each other. I felt all my struggles flow out and be absorbed by the tree. I reconnected to the energy source of the earth which fueled my cells and life force energy. And I am reminded of how important it is to take care of this earth that nourishes us. We are stewards of this earth and our job is to help find the balance so that we can thrive together.

Photo by James Doerfel

Getting out in nature and going for hikes has become a critical self-care component for my health and well-being. When I go too long between hikes, my mood and energy diminishes. Hiking and walks in nature have now become part of my routine and I enjoy getting outdoors. Hiking with others has also been very therapeutic as it enables us to connect on a deeper level which is also lacking in our modern world.

Benefits of Hiking and Being in Nature

Research shows that some of the benefits of being in nature and spending time in forests include:

  • Boost to the immune system
  • Lower blood pressure
  • Reduce stress
  • Improve mood
  • Increase ability to focus, even in children with ADHD
  • Accelerate recovery from surgery or illness
  • Increase energy level
  • Improve sleep

New York State’s Department of Environmental Conservation has a great article that goes into more details about these benefits and lists some of the supporting research.

Health Conscious Hiking Community

Even 5 minutes around trees or green spaces may benefit our health. It’s a simple prescription for improving our well-being and the best part is that it is free. It does require a conscious effort to make sure we get out. Having others to hold us accountable and support us can keep us motivated to incorporate this simple self-care activity.

My intentions for 2019 is to create a Health Conscious Community that brings people together to connect in person and focus on healthy living. As part of this intention, I have created the Health Conscious Hiking Community to support each other in receiving the healing benefits of nature and providing hiking partners. This community will connect using the app Viber* to find hiking partners on days and times that work with them as well as share tips and hiking trails. Participants can also share their preference of hiking abilities (easy, moderate, advanced) and locations (local or further away). The intention is to keep scheduling fluid and simple with last minute planning as an option.

Please invite others who may be interested in participating. The more people in the group, the more opportunities for everyone to connect. It’s best if you know and trust the person to keep this group safe. If you choose to hike with someone for the first time that you don’t know, I’d recommend meeting at a coffee shop first to see if it is a good fit or go in a larger group of people with those you know.

*Viber is a new app for me so if there are any issues, please contact me. You can sign up for the group using this link and it is available for phone or computer download. It may be best to first download the Viber app and then use the link. With Facebook security issues and concerns, email overwhelm, we needed another solution to help connect us. There may be some trial and error so please be patient with us =).I

In Conclusion

Healing is a journey. Connecting with nature is what our bodies need in order to thrive and we don’t need to do it alone. We’d love to have you join our community and support you in your healing journey. In addition to the hiking community group, I will be offering 1:1 deep dive hiking sessions in which you can talk about a health concern and get some feedback while spending some time in nature. To learn more or for any questions, contact Pauline. More information will also be available soon at www.movingtoheal.net.

*Thank you Sara Love for the Inspiring title =)

 

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