society

Nature is all around us — just reach out

There is no dearth of nature’s bounty in the UAE and every one can benefit mentally and physically from it, expert says

Gulf News Report
14:36 February 7, 2018

Why is interacting with nature so linked to our well-being?

Human beings have evolved from nature. They sat, walked and slept on the ground, cultivated land with bare hands and spent a lot of their time naturally grounded.

Being amidst nature evokes a sense of coming home to the self for mind, body and emotions. It’s scientifically proven that the body responds positively when surrounded by nature.

In urban life, we tend to forget or ignore this fact as we strive to reach the pinnacle of what we are conditioned to perceive as success.

As an outlet to relieve this stress, we end up watching TV, or checking our smart phones in spare time, not realizing that this addiction is causing us to compromise our health.

Studies have shown that screen time is associated with increased fatigue, depression, anxiety, ADHD in children, and poor concentration.

When this stress reaches chronic levels, we rush to doctors and ingest more toxins in our system to combat the effects of such stress on our mind and body.

Sometimes, all we need to do is disconnect from urban life and connect with nature allowing you to relax, rest and rejuvenate and bring your mind, body and emotions back into harmony and back in tune with the natural flow and rhythm of life.

Even if you live a healthy and balanced life, you may not even realize how nature-deprived you actually are. This is not just feel-good jargon or wellness mumbo jumbo; this is scientifically proven and acknowledges by doctors, researchers and scientists all over the world.

Can you give us examples?

Japanese researchers found that people who lived closer to or near forests had significantly lower rates of lung, breast, uterine, prostate, kidney, and colon cancers. The Japanese encourage what is called a forest bathing trip, called “Shinrinyoku”. It involves a visit to a forest area for the purpose of relaxation and recreation by breathing in volatile substances, called phytoncides, released from the trees.

Phytoncides can reduce stress hormones, lower anxiety, and improve blood pressure and immunity.

In England, researchers from the University of Exeter Medical School found that people living near more green spaces reported less mental distress.

Natural sunlight has been proven to give us the much needed vitamin D and natural stabilisation of melatonin levels, which promote restful sleep.

Years of extensive research has shown that connecting to the Earth’s natural energy, by walking barefoot on grass, sand, dirt or rock can diminish chronic pain, fatigue and other ailments that plague so many people today. This connection is referred to as Earthing or Grounding.

To put it briefly, when your bare feet or skin comes in contact with the earth, free electrons are taken up into the body. These electrons could be referred to as nature’s biggest antioxidants and help neutralise damaging excess free radicals that can lead to inflammation and disease in the body. The Earth is a conductor or free electrons and so are all living things on the planet, including us. The body is composed of mostly of water and minerals which in combination are excellent conductors of electrons from the Earth providing there is direct skin contact or some other conductive channel for them to flow through.

The earth’s energy upgrades one’s physiology by allowing the body to cope and repair thereby promoting wellbeing, vitality and better sleep. It also harmonises and stabilises the body’s basic biological rhythms, knocks down (and even knocks out) chronic inflammation and reduces and eliminates associated pain, making it the most natural and powerful anti-inflammatory and anti-aging remedy around. No matter what your age, gender, race or health status you will benefit from a daily dose of Earthing!

What are the ways in which stress, anxiety and other everyday pressures be transformed through interaction with nature?

Environmental psychologists Stephen and Rachel Kaplan from the University of Michigan believe its the visual elements in natural environments—sunsets, streams, butterflies—that reduce stress and mental fatigue. They explain that this soft stimuli, allows our brains to wander, rest, and recover and the benefits can be experienced, even when we head back indoors.

Activities surrounding nature could be walking in the desert, waking in the forests, relaxing on a beach or breathing, swimming in the ocean or the beaches and hiking in the mountains breathing the fresh air.

Sometimes, I tend to find a nice coffee shop with an outdoor area where I can get natural sunlight and work from this space rather than in an enclosed office space. This makes me so much more productive and inspired.

Rather than just visiting popular urban cities that we all love to do like London or New York, you can plan active holidays twice a year around nature such as skiing in the mountains or scuba diving in the oceans or hiking and and camping trips.

What are the top 10 ways for residents to make the most of being amidst nature?

1. Walk barefoot on the grass, in the desert or on the beach nearest to your home after work hours, during lunch breaks or on weekends.

2. Sun bathing on a beach or even on your apartment balcony thrice a week for 15 minutes’ minimum.

3. Buy plants and grow them in your apartment, home or balcony

4. Meditate in your garden on the grass or in your apartment balcony and breath in fresh air by doing some yogic breathing.

5. Take the metro and walk around more, rather than driving everywhere to avoid stress from parking or traffic.

6. Include running or jogging in a park rather in your routine and not just being indoors in a gym or a work out class.

7. Sign up for a fun new weekend adventure activity such as scuba diving, golf, horse riding or a fun water sport surrounding nature.

8. Switch off the AC at home and open the doors to get in fresh air every morning.