Photo by: Matthew Hess (view of Black Mountains )
The Call of Nature
Well, not THAT call of nature. But the one of the natural world calling us to connect with nature and be rejuvenated. There are almost unlimited things you can do to spend time in nature: hiking, sailing, skydiving, sand surfing, or less extreme activities like walking, reading under a tree, or sitting in the sunshine. Spending time in the sun, earth, sky and water is extremely beneficial to your body and mind.
“Live in each season as it passes; breathe the air, drink the drink,
taste the fruit, and resign yourself to the influence of the earth.”
Henry David Thoreau
Tip of the Iceberg
Let’s get straight to it. These are some of the known and studied benefits that nature can have on our physical and mental health:
- Lower stress levels
- Lower blood pressure
- Fewer symptoms of depression
- Improved heart health and blood flow
These benefits seem obvious, so what about some less obvious ones? When we spend time in the great outdoors, it helps us connect to the larger world around us. Our daily frustrations don’t seem as bad when you’re staring at a radiant sunrise or down at the valley from the peak you just hiked. In addition to expanding our worldview, it also expands our connections with people. Take a walk with a coworker outdoors on your break. Grab a coffee on an outdoor patio with a friend. Meet some fellow outdoor enthusiasts while playing beach volleyball. The world is your oyster!
Photo by: Matthew Hess (Great Smoky Mountain NP)
Down to Earth
Remember the days of running around barefoot in the summer as a kid? Why did that stop? It doesn’t have to. Many people find the practice of “grounding” very helpful. Grounding, otherwise known as “earthing," is the act of skin to earth contact. There are still limited studies about this concept, but the idea is that the electrical energy that is naturally present in the earth helps reset and balance the electrical energy within our own bodies. This has been shown to boost the immune system, reduce pain and inflammation, improve blood flow and sleep, and is also a type of self-soothing. When you’re having a bad day, are overly stressed or overwhelmed, try getting outside and take your shoes off or do some glove-free gardening. Not every surface can be used for earthing, so make sure to try things like soil, gravel, stone, sand or grass. Some experts recommend 30 minutes a day, but effects can be seen in as little as a few minutes- it just depends on how good you want to feel!
A Ray of Sunshine
It’s no secret that the sun has countless benefits to the wellbeing of our planet, its plant life, and mankind. The biggest reason to spend time soaking up the rays: Vitamin D. This powerhouse is exactly what our bodies need and it affects our mood, immunity, inflammation, hormones, bone health, and much more. There are, of course, certain precautions to going in the sun (don’t look directly at the sun, wear sunscreen). Once those are taken care of, here’s what you should do in the sun. DO get in the sunlight within 60 minutes of waking. DO spend 30-45 minutes in direct sunlight. DO try to avoid going out for prolonged periods between 10am-4pm. DO try new ways of getting in that sunlight like the Zen Swing. The Zen Swing is a particular move within the ancient Chinese healing practice called Qigong (pronounced chi-gong), which emphasizes sunlight exposure while barefoot- like earthing! Check out this Zen Swing how-to video here: https://youtu.be/YP9GI309o9E. Only 10-30 minutes a day will give you all those good benefits and start your day off with energy and focus.
Photo by: Matthew Hess (New River Gorge NP)
Mountain or Molehill
Okay, we get it. Spending time in nature is good. But more isn’t always better. You don’t need to go as far as does Netflix’s series “Alone”, where contestants spend months alone in nature battling extreme weather conditions, natural predators and illnesses to see how long they can survive with Mother Nature. Experts recommend at least 2 hours a week of sunlight and the great outdoors. According to research, the benefits are the same whether it’s 2 hours in one day, or in smaller chunks throughout the week. So go ahead and park at the end of the lot at the grocery store to get an extra couple minutes or go geocaching on your lunch break- it adds up!
Thank you to our very own Matthew Hess, Marketing Associate for the beautiful pictures down the Appalachian Mountains!
Photo by: Matthew Hess (Sandstone Falls in New River Gorge NP)
Photo by: Matthew Hess (from Clingman’s Dome)
Photo by: Matthew Hess (New River Gorge Bridge- Route 19 over New River Gorge NP)