For the first time in history, the majority of the world’s population now live in urban setting rather than rural settings. This trending switch has taken us away from nature, which has taken a collective toll on our health.
With urbanization on the rise, people are less engaged with nature. No longer do we have the need to interact with nature for survival. Instead our relationship with the natural world is primarily based on recreation and enjoyment, and it’s minimal at best. As a result, many people suffer from what American writer, Richard Louv, calls “nature deficit disorder,” defined as a “diminished ability to find meaning in the life that surrounds us.”
In Louv’s book, Last Child in the Woods, he explains that nature affects “everything from a positive effect on the attention span, to stress reduction to cognitive development and a sense of wonder and connection to the earth.” With incidences of heart disease, diabetes and cancer continuing to rise, as well as escalating mental health issues, research is linking artificial stimulation to exhaustion and a loss of health and vitality. Simultaneously, mounting scientific evidence points to the positive effects that interacting with nature has on a person’s physical and mental well-being.
Even though the amount and type of nature accessible to people is varied, our desire to connect with it somehow seems to be universally embedded in our DNA. As humans, our cells expect and thrive on natural sunlight, fresh water and air. Not having such a connection is, no pun intended, “unnatural”. Spending days in windowless rooms with artificial light and glowing screens from televisions, computers and smartphones denies us the necessary symbiotic relationship we need with the natural world to thrive. Our bodies haven’t evolved to keep pace with what is now a disconnect from nature. At our core, we’re still hunters and gatherers. In other words, our bodies need what nature give us, and that may always be the case.
The pendulum seems to be swinging back and we are seeing a shift back to nature. From fast food to more “slow” organic foods, a rise in popularity of dietary lifestyles rooted in hunting and foraging ancestral patterns and a resurgence of planned parks amidst urban sprawl, we are seeking a reconnection with nature. “Grounding” or “earthing”, a practice that involves walking barefoot on the earth’s surface, is also gaining popularity. Research has shown “earthing” can reduce inflammation promote wound healing, strengthen the immune system, and prevent or even help to alleviate chronic diseases, including autoimmune diseases.
Even in hospital settings, people are planting trees and gardens. Studies have shown that connecting to nature can speed recovery from surgery just being around plants or images of nature helped to heal the body faster and more efficiently. Patients with garden access on hospital grounds demonstrated positive health outcomes, such as less stress and anxiety, a positive outlook and faster healing.
It’s important to connect with nature every day. As it turns out, vitamin N might be the most important nutrient of all.
I have a very strong connection with the ocean and it lifts my spirits every time I see it, or voyage upon it. Last night we went out on the ocean, anchored, watched the sun set and grilled dinner. Then we raced (at 10 knots) back to the dock to beat a summer storm.
I much prefer cycling to a spinning class or a beach run to the treadmill. Every time I go to the gym I am amazed to see people running on walking on a treadmill watching television. As this article indicates, they are missing much of the benefit.
The Bottom Line:
Make it a daily choice to spend some time outdoors with nature. Work around the elements (I avoid the mid-day sun) or immerse yourself in them (running in the rain can be fun). I promise you will feel better and be healthier.
Source: Biotics Research Corporation