Being a farmer in the rural countryside and making the daily commute to my small apartment in New York City grants me the rare opportunity to straddle two extremely different lifestyles. On one hand, I get to quietly pick vegetables in the Hudson Valley where the only environmental noises are songbirds and the occasional tractor. On the other hand, the New York City ambiance is an unbroken soundtrack of construction, cars, rowdy food vendors and subway cars. Sometimes, I find that as soon as I get home, the creative, soft energy that I’ve spent all day cultivating is washed away by the ever distracting environment outside my apartment. If I didn’t have the opportunity to reconnect with nature everyday, I think I could feel overwhelmed at times, and restless.
A Disconnect From Nature
Besides the seemingly inescapable noise pollution, we also live in an age where a staggering amount of vast information is at our fingertips. Advice for the closest Pokemon battle station, dirt on the latest political drama, and updates on the newest Kardashian lipstick color palette are just a few of the popular headlines that can easily distract us for hours. Technology can conveniently serve as an escape from the mounting stress at work or can simply capture that perfectly baked croissant from your favorite bakery. Yet at what point do we need disconnect from the flurry of emails, texts, tweets or notifications so that we can focus on our overall well-being? It turns out that carving out time to reconnect with nature has been found to have a significantly positive effect on an our happiness by supporting our mental well-being and our overall physical health.
Regain Your Creative Side
No matter where you work or what your occupation is, creating time to go on a short, nature oriented walk can help reinforce creative energy and regain mental focus. A study conducted by the University of Michigan found that subjects who took an hour walk everyday in nature had improvements in their directed attention abilities. Researchers believe that this positive shift in attention is due to the intriguing, calm stimuli that nature can offer which allows our brains a chance to process everything at a slower pace. Another study published by psychologists from the University of Utah and University of Kansas discovered that backpackers scored 50 percent better on a creativity test after spending four days in nature without any electronic devices like cell phones and laptops. While giving up electronic devices for four days may seem extremely daunting, this study exemplifies the importance of occasionally disconnecting to nourish our creative side. By familiarizing ourselves with nature, we gain significant benefits because we are able to sustain our creative problem-solving skills and take the time to process everything that is going on around us. These mental health benefits are gifts that nature can provide us if we give it the chance.
Regain Your Well-Being
Reorienting ourselves with nature can also improve our physical well-being. The University of Illinois just conducted a study that discovered 21 different health benefits that stem from reconnecting with nature. One of the great benefits that researchers found was the improved function of the immune system. Being outside has inherent immune-boosting qualities such as vitamin D from sunlight, negative ions, phytoncides (healthy antimicrobial compounds derived from plants) and Mycobacterium vaccae (good bacteria in the soil). The same study found that varying degrees of exposure to nature can also positively contribute to your physical well-being by reducing blood pressure, heart rate, muscle tension, and the production of stress hormones. Even something as simple as placing a plant in a room help elevate your mood and reduce anxiety. Another study in Kyoto, Japan found that women who spent 6 hours walking and exploring in a forested area (camping trip anyone?) had an vast increase in tumor-fighting white blood cells. This increase in white blood cells is thought to stem from the subjects decreased stress levels and that the subjects were surrounded by healthy plant compounds (Phytoncides).
While taking an hour everyday to hike, bike or walk may seem difficult, the mental and physical benefits are many. Simply taking a walk in the park or creating a small garden in your backyard can help cultivate a sacred space for you to digest the events of the day and help you feel grounded. You can also pack some water and a Moringa Superfood Bar and navigate the closest nature preserve so that you can spend a weekend disconnected. After taking a break from the city life and camping in the Hudson Valley last weekend, I felt refreshed and clear headed. I could almost feel my tightly coiled body unwind as the the sounds of sirens, car horns and construction drilling were replaced with silence. So for yourself, your body and your mind; please try to take the time to replace the texts and calls with the crashing of waves or the soft, ambient sound of birds harmoniously singing. Your body and mind will thank you.