Bathing In Nature
Being outdoors in nature brings about a feeling of peace and restores our equilibrium. I love being in the forest here on the Pacific North West Coast, surrounded by big trees, or walking along the beach, with the waves crashing on the shore. I always feel better after spending time in nature. “Shinrin-yoku,” is a Japanese healing practice of “forest bathing”. It means spending time in a forest, to improve mental and physical health by inhaling negative ions, essential oils and even beneficial bacteria from the forest air.
Health Benefits of Negative Ions
When we are in nature, near mountains, waterfalls, and beaches, we are exposed to negative ions. There is evidence to show that negative ions produce biochemical reactions that increase levels of the mood enhancing chemicals which in turn help to relieve depression and stress, and give us an energy boost. This may be one of the reasons why being outdoors in nature has been shown to decrease stress, increase creativity, improve mood and self-esteem and improve SAD (Seasonal Affected Disorder).
Touch The Earth
As I am writing this post in January, it may seem a little impractical, but one of the best ways to expose ourselves to negative ions is through grounding, or touching our bare skin to the earth, such as walking barefoot on the beach.
Nature Offers Better Air Quality
Another good reason for spending at least some time each day, outdoors in nature, is that indoor air quality is usually far worse than outdoors. This is due to off gassing of building materials, paints, carpeting and furniture and the build up of dust and mold.
As we mentioned in the post about sleep, getting out in natural sunlight helps set our internal clock and helps us sleep better at night.
Exercising outdoors in nature or green exercise can be very energizing and has the added benefit of adding variety and intensity to our workout as we move through the wind, weather and changing terrain. Exercising outdoors has also shown to lower levels of cortisol (a stress hormone).
Those who have little contact with nature have been shown to to be more likely to suffer from certain mental disorders.
And as a final note, the next time you’re outdoors in nature, why not try doing it mindfully. Turn off the noise (music players, cell phones…) and be fully present, for at least a few moments, to the nature around you, moving in time with your breath and sensing the moment. Truly be in nature.