Vitamin N – Nature: An Essential Nutrient for Health, Healing and Connection (a.k.a. Forest Bathing)

In some of my earlier posts, I have previously mentioned how historically, we humans have evolved to live in a particular kind of environment which we were physiologically equipped to be able to handle, survive and thrive in. Feel free to check out those posts here and here if you haven’t already, as they will be relevant to my perspective in this post.

Being a human of the natural world for most of us in western society is a far removed and long forgotten reality. Many of us live in urban city dwellings and spend a lot of our lives indoors with little to no exposure to nature or natural surroundings and much less than what we require for health and connection to our environment.

This is a completely different landscape to what our DNA expects and with this environmental mismatch comes modern health issues. The same way one can have a micro-nutrient vitamin or mineral deficiency which can be problematic to health, many of us also lack vitamin nature, leaving us with what you can think of as a nature deficiency of sorts.

Notice how calm, happy, relaxed, de-stressed and grounded we are when we step out into nature for a bush walk or when we walk across a sandy beach with our bare feet. How come it feels easier to breathe and even therapeutic? This highlights that immersion in these kinds of environments is a deeply embedded part of our true, wild nature. Our biological interaction with these environments is obvious. If we look through the lens of humans as already “perfect” biological beings that were designed to be a healthy, happy, thriving species, then it makes it easier to understand that one of our primary health requirements is to live in or near an environment which best allows us to express this.

The Japanese have a term which is relevant in this context…. “Shinrin Yoku” which simply translates into “taking in the atmosphere of the forest”.  It is also commonly known as forest bathing; a type of therapy. Forest medicine is now a large area of scientific study and there have actually been many studies performed to measure the effect that forest therapy has on various biological health markers.

One study conducted a field experiment across 24 forests in Japan which consisted of almost 300 people. All participants were exposed to a forest area as well as a city area. Health factors such as blood pressure, salivary cortisol (our stress hormone), heart rate variability and pulse rate were all measured before and after. The results showed that a forest environment influences a decrease in cortisol levels, lowers blood pressure and pulse rate, helps activate the parasympathetic nervous system (our rest and digest state) and lowers sympathetic nervous system activity (our fight or flight, stress state), when compared to being in city environments. This is a huge deal when it comes to our health. Another study found that forest bathing effectively decreases blood glucose levels in diabetic people. If that’s not encouraging, I don’t know what is.

An additional biological piece to this is that of our Microbiome; the gut bacteria that live in and on us, deeming us more bacteria than human, and our immune system’s interaction with the microorganisms out in nature. We evolved as part of a natural ecosystem that includes a symbiotic relationship with the abundance of microorganisms in our natural environment that help us physiologically in countless ways, especially when it comes to our immunity and prevention of health issues. We require exposure to a vast array of microorganism species for health, which is what happens when we walk through a forest. When we don’t do this as often as we can, we are missing out on important biological inputs for our health.

Some of us have the fortune of living in a forest or rural environment, closer to natural surroundings. However there are many more of us that don’t. The good news is, even if we do live in city areas, many of us still have the option of travelling to or living near a national park or forest, mountains, bush land, local city parks, beaches, etc.

Getting out in nature also allows us to be active and get our movement time in, natural light and sunshine exposure, social time (bring a friend!) and makes for an overall enjoyable, mind and mood-boosting experience.

Nature is somewhere where one can just “be”, away from distractions and the hustle and bustle of city life and of our constant thinking and analysing selves. It allows us to be present and have awareness of our surroundings. Nature is where we started out as humans and when we were our most robust and healthy, free of the modern disease and modern life struggles.

Nature is timeless, priceless, present, primal, beautiful, alive. Nature just “is”. We are nature. Nature is us.

Being out in nature (our true home) promotes an inner peace, a reconnection to our land and environment, a reconnection to ourselves, each other, and what it means to be human and beyond. I simply cannot get enough.

Thanks for being here!

 

If you liked (or didn’t like) what you have just read, then feel free to send me some feedback as I’d love to hear from you! You can reach me at reconnected.me@gmail.com

DISCLAIMER: All content I share here on my blog is written from my own personal inquiry, experiences, thoughts and opinions and is not intended to replace medical or lifestyle advice from a practising professional.

References

The Physiological Effects of Shinrin Yoku

Trends in Research Related to Shinrin Yoku

Shinrin Yoku Effectively Decreases Blood Glucose Levels in Diabetics

 

Support us with a follow and like:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *