by Jamunadevi (Karina Stewart)
When I think about improving holistic health and wellbeing I ask myself which are the habits and practices which create the most meaningful impact, and become the cornerstones to life enhancement and life transformation ? On this occasion my choice and clear winner is Nature. Nature is essential for our physical health and vitality; our emotional balance and connectedness; and our mental tranquillity and clarity. We are a part of nature, though many of us feel somewhat disconnected from nature, particularly those of us living in big cities. This disconnection can be psychological as well as physical. As of 2010 we have officially become an urban species: more of us living in cities than not; living more indoors than outdoors. In the West we are spending on average 90% of our time indoors. But we can do something about this, especially when we see how well our bodies and minds respond to nature.
Here are some of the wonderful things that happen within five minutes of spending time in nature: walking in a forest, on a hill or even in a park. Our body and mind begin to change: our heart rate slows; facial muscles start to relax; our hard working brain’s frontal lobes begin to quieten down. This results in increased productivity and creativity later in the day.
Looking at nature and spending time in nature is restorative. Stress levels change: cortisol and adrenaline levels fall. The smell of pine trees strengthens our immune system by increasing our NK cells. Listening to bird song or looking at the patterns made by natural things (fractal patterns), increases the brain’s alpha waves, making us feel more calm and alert. Taking this further: a 90 minute nature walk surrounded by living plants and animals can result in less preoccupation with our personal problems and we will feel more connected to the world around us. Some research from Finland found that a minimum of five hours per month in nature results in an overall increase in happiness.