Time spent in the wilderness soothes the soul and boosts physical health better than any pill ever could.
The powerful, tangible energy that surges through rivers, swirls among trees, gusts across mountains, splashes onto beaches, rejuvenates us in a way that nothing else can. Especially after we've been cooped up in sterile office buildings, surrounded by concrete jungles or watching belching factories, for months -- or even years -- on end.
Unfortunately, not all of us have the ability, time, or opportunity to get out into nature as often as we need to.
But OrganicConsumers.org covered a 2018 study that showed physical health improved the more time people spent in nature. Study participants were exposed to "greenspaces" and examined by doctors who reported they had measurable drops in everything from blood pressure and stress hormones to heart rate, Type 2 diabetes and premature birth, much more so than people of similar groups who were not exposed to "greenspaces."
Meanwhile, author Dr. Joseph Mercola explains, "When other health outcomes were factored in, between 66 percent and 100 percent of the studies showed that increased greenspace exposure was associated with better health, including improved outcomes for neurological disorders, cancer and respiratory mortality."
And now, as the Guardian recently reported, we know that even just two hours of exposure to nature significantly increases the quality of a person's life: by boosting mood and reducing stress.
All of this I can attest to: I just returned from a week in the remote valley community of Eldora, Colorado, with my family. During this too-short time, mountain vistas, ice-cold burbling streams, and slabs of granite replaced our electronic gadgets and plastic toys.
Neighborhood elk and hummingbirds took the place of our annoying-but-adorable house cats. White-barked Aspen trees danced and shimmered all around us, tickled by the wind, as though they were sharing happy secrets at a cocktail party we might be lucky enough to get invited to.
The kids flourished, too, with their hands in the dirt each morning, exploring the Columbine, Astor, and paintbrush flowers, scrambling up rocky hillsides every afternoon, building fairy houses and swinging each other on the hammock instead of begging for more Temple Run 2 on my iPhone.
A full moon and unobstructed view of the stars reminded me how small and insignificant we are in this vast universe. Fluttering moths and chirping grasshoppers reminded me how powerful and large our lives and influence could be, if only we didn't confine ourselves so often to the daily minutiae of to-do lists and chores.
Stress reduced, mind cleared, energy revitalized, we've settled back in at home to urban Pittsburgh. The day after we landed I had my followup mammogram; you know, the one you have to schedule after getting that ominous phone call, where a nurse tells you they've found a "significant mass of extremely dense tissue" in your breast from the images on your annual visit, and that you'll need to come back for further imaging: 3D this time, even an ultrasound.
I've been down this road several times before, and it's always followed by a biopsy, a few days of tenderness, and weeks of anxious waiting to hear whether or not it's cancerous.
For more on wellness and spiritual growth, visit The Reductionist's stories on Inner Peace.
Lucky for me, this time my appointment went smoothly. As the nurse splayed my flesh into that squishing torture machine, I closed my eyes and, instead of letting the worry overcome me, I imagined myself swaddled in the healing light of the mountain sunshine.
I took my mind back to that gushing, ice-cold Colorado stream that was dappled in mossy rocks. I envisioned those glorious mountains and that carpet of wildflowers spread out before me.
The procedure was quick and (almost) painless. After a second, then third round of images that day, and then an ultrasound just to be absolutely sure, the radiologist told me, "It's only a cyst. See you in a year!"
This is certainly no scientific evidence, but it's proof enough for me that a week in the wilderness did me and my body a world of good.
And now I find myself reaching for any slice of blissful Colorado that I can carry with me, hold in my hand whenever I need to feel the powerful earth energies more tangibly.
Souvenir T-shirts just aren't cutting it. And I'm certainly not going to nail the skull of a big-horned sheep to my front door. (Pittsburghers just don't do that sort of thing.)
But natural elements, sprinkled throughout my home, I can pull off.
Surround Yourself With Nature Right In Your Home With These Easy Elements
The possibilities are endless, really. Many are free and simple, too. Just be sure you're not stealing critical life-giving pieces of the natural environment: It's against the law to take rocks or sand from many national parks, for instance. And old oyster shells lying on the beach are actually great for helping new oysters to grow, so you may want to think twice before helping yourself to them for a DIY home decor project.
I'm Janeen; writer, mother, wife, and full-time, radical Reductionist. I share stupid-easy tips on how to save money while reducing your impact on the environment, & I'm committed to helping others live a life of simple sustainability.
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