It doesn’t take much convincing for Canadians to realize just how important the summer is for our overall well-being. During summer the power of the sun has returned and with it our capacity to manufacture Vitamin D perhaps the single most vital nutrient to health. Studies have shown that most Canadians become vitamin D deficient over our long winters and so now is the time to recharge as much as possible.
Along with the sun-vitamin, scientists are beginning to understand the healing effects of being in close-proximity to natural places – especially forests. “Forest Bathing” is a Japanese practice of being in the presence of trees. This simple act has been shown to “lower heart rate and blood pressure, reduce stress hormone production, boost the immune system, and improve overall feelings of wellbeing.”
The interesting part is the only thing required is to be near trees. No hiking, no tracking steps. No goals, the point is to relax and slow down rather than accomplish anything.
Related to this phenomenon is the emerging concept of ‘Earthing’. Ask yourself a question: When was the last time your skin actually touched the Earth? For many of us the only times our feet actually contact the earth is when we are on vacation, at a beach, or up at the cottage. We can go months and months at a time without touching mother earth. Earthing posits that isolation from the Earth by non-conductive materials such as rubber and plastic (our shoes), wood, plastic, laminate, and asphalt (flooring surfaces) has a detrimental effect on our health:
“The Earth has a natural electrical surface made up of negative charged electrons (also known as free electrons). These electrons have the ability to move more freely and reduce positive charges (free radicals). Free radicals continue to ravage our body’s healthy cells in search of the one thing they are missing, an electron. Once a free radical finds its missing electron, it is satiated and is no longer contributing to the inflammation in the body. While many of us may grow to be ‘electron deficient’, we now understand that the earth below our feet is the greatest source of these electrons… if only we stay in contact with it.”
And finally Researchers at University of Colorado Boulder have found that taking a seven day respite from the chaos of modern living by unplugging your electrical devices, heading for the hills, and living with only natural light is the antidote for many things, including insomnia.
The takeaway from these findings is just how integrated our health, both physical and mental, is with the environment that surrounds us. In essence, how we feel and how our bodies work are intimately connected with the natural inputs that we provide it. If you have never experienced the summertime magic that is British Columbia consider spending a week or two immersed amongst the giant Douglas Firs, Cedars, and Pines that line the beaches of the Pacific Ocean. Perhaps with a little yoga and meditation practice in the mix. ;)