Updated: Nov 15
Listen, no one likes to cuddle on the couch with a hot cup of chai and a bingeworthy show more than me. It's one of my happy places. In our modern age, there's so much convenience and entertainment that we never have to leave our house--especially after the pandemic when remote work became a valid, and often preferred, option.
Need groceries? A new pair of shoes? Don't want to cook? Order online and have it delivered right to your door. Want to get your steps in and watch TV? Get a treadmill. Need to see your therapist to help your anxiety? Have a HIPAA compliant telehealth call. You see, we never have to step outside our homes.
In fact, according to the EPA, Americans spend an average of 90% of their life indoors. That's way up compared to our primitive days and even our recent history. So what's wrong with that? Isn't all of our technology and sound construction a good thing?
I thought it was until I was confronted with a cancer diagnosis. When it happened, I knew immediately that I had lost connection with myself and to nature. And I know I'm not alone.
Here's the thing. You might not remember this but you’re an earthling! Yeah, I said it, earthling. That word aliens use to refer to the human race in the movies. We’re born and bred right here on this magnificent planet known as Mother Earth. We’re natural beings, and we were made to connect with the natural world because it supplies the greatest medicine.
Have you ever noticed how calming it is to walk along the shore with your toes in the sand, or how your breathing regulates when you’re caring for plants in your garden, or how well you sleep after spending most of the day in the sun, and how much better you feel after eating a plate of fresh, organic produce? That’s because our human bodies haven’t evolved to sit in front of screens all day and function optimally.
In fact, you may want to pause right here and take a moment to step outside in the sunlight or beneath the stars and take a few deep breaths. I'll be waiting for you here . . .
Ah, okay. Feel better?
Good. Now let's continue.
As I've been on my healing path and worked with clients, I've observed a direct correlation between physical and mental health and time spent outside in nature. Because when we lose connection with the natural world, we can experience:
trouble sleeping, digestive problems, mood swings, anxiety and depression, weakened immune system, fatigue, and a host of chronic health issues. So this is always something I address as part of holistic life coaching because when you FEEL good, you're much clearer on the direction you want to take. You have motivation to move forward. And you can maintain a steady pace of energy so that burnout becomes a problem of the past.
So how can connecting with nature outside help with all of this?
First, getting sunlight helps regulate your circadian rhythm, which means you'll fall asleep easily at a decent hour and wake up refreshed in the morning. A natural environment like a hiking trail or the beachfront, has a calming effect on our nervous system, thus allowing us to go into our parasympathetic (rest, digest, and repair) mode. This is necessary for the body to function optimally and ward off illness. Spending time in nature simply feels good because it boosts your energy and mood instead of draining it.
If you're not already spending at least 20 minutes communing with nature a day, then start simple. Go out and walk in nature, whatever that means for you. Whether you live in the desert, near the beach, or a city with a few local parks, the key is to immerse yourself in the fresh air, sunshine, and natural elements like earth, trees, and water.
Go quietly without conversation or headphones, just you and the outdoors. Engage all your senses, taking in the scents, sights, and sounds around you. If you want to ramp up the benefits, walk barefoot on natural surfaces like grass, sand, or soil. This practice is known as earthing, which has a host of benefits from curing headaches to alleviating anxiety. Take a 10 minute morning walk before 10 a.m. without sunglasses. Getting sunlight in your eyes first thing in the morning sets your circadian rhythm. Even better if you can get outside in the evening and watch the sunset. This signals your brain to release melatonin, helping you wind down for a good night's rest.
If your schedule is full, then find ways to build nature time into your day. Maybe take your laptop to your outdoor patio and work with your bare feet on the concrete or grass. Walk your neighborhood park during a conference call. Pack some snacks and take your kids to the park where they can run around for a while and do their homework, picnic style. Pretty much anytime I travel to visit friends, I always make them take me hiking. I've had some of the most meaningful conversations during nature walks with girlfriends. I totally recommend it!
If you want to learn more about this topic, I HIGHLY recommend The Earthing Movie. You can watch it free on YouTube!
No matter when you create the time to be outside, allow yourself to breathe and be. When you do, you create space to not only connect with nature, but with yourself. In this connection, you'll experience the immense healing power of the great outdoors.
Until next time, enjoy the sunshine!