Even though this has been one of the most challenging times in many of our lives, I’m really excited to see if one benefit ‘sticks.’
Will we hold on to some of the new things we’ve found as we return to ‘what we consider’ is normality? As lockdown restrictions lift, people return to work and their livelihoods.
Moments in recent months have brought me so much joy and hope for the future.
Before the lockdown, only 21% of children regularly played outdoors. This has significantly altered since March.
I've seen so many children being shown how to ride a bike, even older children tentatively schooled by friends or a parent, at eight, nine years old, even into their early teens. Lots of adults too, appear to be rediscovering cycling skills learnt a long-time ago.
I’ve heard the squeals of delight, discussions and amazement on children and even some parents faces, as they follow other people, to take off their immaculate, ‘on trend’ trainers to squish their bare feet into the sand for the first time on New Brighton beach.
A small contingent, fighting with their fear to go even further and paddle in the water’s edge, on a hot and sunny day (after many years of being given the impression that the sea was too ‘dirty’).
On that day in late April the air seemed cleaner, and sky clearer than any I could remember. Even light blue tones and a distinct smell in the air took me back to the happy summers of my childhood (in the seventies), when I used to roam the fields.
Many of my friends from the South West remarked after the first two months of the lockdown, that they were missing their favourite beaches, days on Dartmoor and regular riverside walks in Dorset. The places they’d always gone to “fill up their happy tank.”
Maybe it’s only when we lose something, that we realise how special it is, and how great it made us feel?
As far as human health is concerned, many things that feel good, feel good because they really do bring physical and mental benefits, we just don’t realise it and many benefits aren't widely acknowledged.
Often our conditioning and education have led us to believe that many things aren’t good for us, like playing in mud, walking in the rain, walking outside in our bare feet, even bathing in the sunshine. These are just a fraction of the activities in nature that can bring significant benefits to our health and wellbeing.
It's a good job the sun has been shining so much during the lockdown. Even just a little exposure during daily exercise will have made a huge difference to many people's mental and physical health.
Children of all ages are discovering things for first time; the simple pleasure of blowing a dandelion head, climbing a tree, making daisy chains, rolling down grassy hills, ‘being in the moment’ as they watch a butterfly or bumblebee, unrushed, with a new awe.
On one of my own regular walks, I overheard (from more than 2 metres) lots of people asking others in their group what type of birds they'd seen and heard, as the tide retreated, with Oystercatchers and other waders feeding on the rich shellfish beds of the Irish Sea.
Some of us were ‘fortunate‘ to have been introduced to nature at an early age, immersed in it, allowed to roam free and many people shared their love and knowledge of nature with us.
Unfortunately, for lots of children, their parents, even grandparents, many growing up in our towns and cities, even villages in our ‘rural idle’ (places that have become little more than a commuter zone) have become disconnected with nature. Our fields, moors, rivers and downs have increasingly become an ‘alien’ environment.
A RSPB study in 2013, found that 4 out of 5 children were 'not connected with nature'. In 2017, research found that 7 out of 10 adults felt they were loosing touch with nature, 13% said they had not even been to the countryside for more than two years. A quarter could not say for sure they had ever seen a blue tit, and a fifth did not know that a red kite was a bird.
The countryside has become ‘scary place’ where we are rarely encouraged to explore, by government or the media – in any co-ordinated, systemic, meaningful way to generate better widespread health or wellbeing.
Society has changed so much over the last 30 years, enticed by the promise of immediate gratification, we’re encouraged to buy something new, soak up another box set, play on-line ‘virtual’ games with friends or strangers, compare ourselves with others based on how often we go out to eat, the number of 'likes' on a social media post, to the most foreign holidays taken each year. Although the last is now reducing in popularity, as an increasingly number of people see it as a irresponsible and flagrant act, in terms of individual carbon impact.
In days gone by, when society wasn’t as mobile, we were more connected with nature and the community around us, a bigger part of a ‘smaller’ world. People knew most animals and birds they saw. Some of us have experienced this again during lockdown, we've benefitted from connecting with more local people, delivering groceries to neighbours, making new friends and reacquainting ourselves with local nature.
THANKS TO THE CORONAVIRUS SITUATION, I believe a huge number of people have pushed beyond their comfort zone, 'broken out' of long held routines to explore the natural world and green spaces on their doorstep. Particularly as they have taken daily exercise seriously as an important opportunity to get outside nearly every day.
New places, watching nature and activities outdoors have made us feel great, bringing HAPPINESS at a time of worry and stress. Outdoor adventures spent bonding with our nearest and dearest, to quiet individual reflection in natural settings.
I’ve met, waved and smiled at so many people who live in my community, met neighbours where I live (feeling more connected) as I finally try out the footpaths and bridleways around my home. Nearly everyone I meet is smiling!
An unprecendented number of people appear to be on a similar voyage of discovery, without much of the 'traditional' kit which might symbolise a long held confidence, familiarity or regularity of getting outdoors.
A silver lining that we’ve all been forced to explore and find ‘the special’ natural assets on our doorstep? Rather than that regular weekend car ride to our favourite beauty spot or National Trust Garden.
Having the opportunity (without the commute) to dedicate more time to walk to my local bluebell woods, I’ve tentatively explored things I can pick to eat and cook. Stuff that my grandmothers generation took as standard, as they turned healthy nettles into soups (cooked properly it really does taste just like spinach - just many more benefits), added a few dandelions to salads to get some extra vitamin C, or boiled up rosehips with sugar in the autumn. The cure all ‘a spoonful of sugar’ my nan often gave me during winter months, saying it would ' pep me up, and keep a cold at bay.’
Others appear to be doing the same, as we are taking more time to deepen our connection and interest in the natural world around us.
Each ‘eat weeds', 'wild foraging' and ‘nature kitchen’ enthusiast I’ve visited online has been remarking on the dramatic increase in the number of followers. So many people looking for advice on how to get started.
Similarly, the interest in gardening and ‘grow your own’ has sky rocketed in recent weeks – ‘packets of so many vegetables and herb seeds’ SOLD OUT nearly as soon as the garden centres opened, quickly becoming the latest ‘bog roll’ phenomena, two months later!
MY DEEPEST HOPE AND WISH FOR THE FUTURE – is that those that have newly discovered or extended their pleasures in engaging with nature WON’T slip back into old patterns, but make room for these new activities as permanent, valued fixtures in their lives. Be it the daily walk, cycle, watching wildlife or foraging for a 'wilder' dinner.
All of us can benefit from MORE nature in our lives.
We’re all part of nature (some of us just got a little too busy or forgot our DNA connection for a while, but it doesn't take that long to reconnect).
Info. & background
1. Just a fraction of the huge range of FREE benefits nature can bring us, physically, mentally, to strengthen a sense of community or generate a greater compassion for the natural world can be found at www.supernatured.org.uk/
2. We are updating this at the moment to include - benefits of gardening, essential benefits of staying active outdoors for those living with dementia, integrating more nature in your work environment, reasons for being around trees and so, so much more…
3. With any simple search on the internet you can discover a huge range of benefits you never knew NATURE could provide!
At the moment many of us are discovering what Scientists have known for a while, that placing one foot in front of the other outdoors each day leads to some seriously impressive mental and physical benefits.
The Physical Benefits of Walking
There are many reasons to walk for exercise, walking improves fitness, cardiac health, alleviates depression and fatigue, improves mood, creates less stress on joints and reduces pain, can prevent weight gain, reduce risk for cancer and chronic disease, improve endurance, circulation, and posture, and the list goes on…
When comparing the results of the most recent Runners and Walkers Studies, researchers found that the energy used for moderate-intensity walking and vigorous-intensity running resulted in similar reductions in risk for high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes and heart disease over a six year period.
This means when it comes to some pretty prominent markers of our health, walking at a moderate intensity can get the job done just as well as running, as long as you’re expending the same amount of energy. Great news for those of us that dread going on a jog.
Many studies have supported this notion, finding that a daily walk can reduce the risk of stroke in both men and women, reduce the days spent in a hospital each year and can even lower your risk of death by up to 39 percent (when compared with no leisure-time physical activity).
A study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine found that those who adhered to a walking program showed significant improvements in blood pressure, slowing of resting heart rate, reduction of body fat and body weight, reduced cholesterol, improved depression scores with better quality of life and increased measures of endurance.
The Mental Benefits of Walking
While the physical benefits are notable, the mental boost that can be gleaned from adding a walk to your daily routine may be more immediate.
One Stanford University study found that walking increased creative output by an average of 60 percent. Researchers labelled this type of creativity “divergent thinking,” which they define as a thought process used to generate creative ideas by exploring many possible solutions. According to the study, “walking opens up the free flow of ideas, and it is a simple and robust solution to the goals of increasing creativity and increasing physical activity.”
Psychologists found that a 10-minute walk may be just as good as a 45-minute workout when it comes to relieving the symptoms of anxiety.
Which makes sense, since science shows that engaging in activities that allow our minds to wander promotes a mental state conducive to innovative ideas and “ah-ha!” moments.
But it’s not only your creativity that will benefit from the mental lift. The act of walking is also a proven mood booster. One study found that just 12 minutes of walking resulted in an increase in joviality, vigor, attentiveness and self-confidence versus the same time spent sitting.
Even better in NATURE
Walking in nature, specifically, is found to reduce ruminating over negative experiences, which increases activity in the brain associated with negative emotions and raises risk of depression.
Researchers in Japan also found that a walk in nature changes blood flow in the brain to a state of relaxation, increasing the number of natural killer cells the body produces to battle infection.
So how does it work? Our brain gently registers things like the wind in leaves and the sound of the waves to revitalise our fatigued mind. Phytoncides, the olfactory-provoking chemicals that trees naturally secrete, can also reduce stress hormones. They can be cancer-protective: so the more walks in woodland could lower the rates of lung, breast, uterine, prostate, kidney and colon cancers.
Walking has also been shown to improve memory and prevent the deterioration of brain tissue as we age. Plus, psychologists studying how exercise relieves anxiety and depression also suggest that a 10-minute walk may be just as good as a 45-minute workout when it comes to relieving the symptoms of anxiety and boosting mood.
Motivation to keep going
Not all of us find it easy to stay motivated to go out for a walk on our own. Some people enjoy the sociable aspect of being part of a walking group. It’s a great way to meet like minded people whilst getting active. Joining a group can also keep you motivated as you will not want to miss out on the fun or meeting up with new friends you’ve made. It may also help you get to know your area.
When the restrictions are lifted, why not join or look to set up your own local group - Ramblers have the 'Walking for health' programme which can provide training and insurance to help individuals and organisations run health walks.
Although we may accept a bit of rain, “suppose the garden needs it”, but did you know that our bodies also need the rain for its negative ion benefits?
Remember catching rain on your tongue and that connection with the elements as a child. Maybe you instinctively connected with nature more because if felt so good, without knowing what it was doing for you on a deeper level, before life’s conditioning made you kick good habits like this as you got older?
Negative ions are the only example I can recall in which a negative is a positive. Yes, that’s correct. Negative ions are a very good thing; they produce a net positive effect on our health.
Negative ions are tasteless, odourless and invisible molecules that we inhale when we are in environments that contain moving water, like rain. Once the negative ions reach our bloodstream, they are believed to produce biochemical reactions that help to relieve stress, alleviate depression and even boost our energy.
Not only rain enables an abundance of negative ions to be released but also waterfalls, the ocean and even dew and mist in the mountains.
Have you ever noticed how you experience a sense of euphoria by being around these beautiful settings and away from the everyday pressures of work, school or home?
The action of the pounding surf creates negative air ions and we also see it immediately after spring thunderstorms when people report improved mood.
That’s because the air circulating around moving water contain tens of thousands of negative ions — unlike a closed home or office, with all its electronics produce 'positive' ions.
Imagine if scientists (most funded by business) and the media had named these ions the opposite way around? Who would surround themselves with lots of technology, stay in their houses and offices around these ions so much - if you knew they were damaging your body, without a healthy break outside?
'Positive' ions from computers, wifi, telecommunications are not good for our health, some even attack our cells at molecular level (e.g. microwaves, basically radiation - the stuff they use to kill cells in your body to get rid of areas of cancer). Your body can recover exposure from ‘positive ions’ at low level, healing itself, with breaks from it, if you look after yourself with exercise, healthy diet and.... surprise, surprise, regular contact with nature makes a positive difference in so many ways.
Few doctors 'prescribe' getting outdoors into nature as a simple preventive treatment. There is little funded research into the benefits of contact with nature, compared to the investment in pharmaceuticals. The media are rarely cover and promote good evidence that's out there, when they do, often they are dismissive and make a bit of joke about it (e.g. after doing a piece on 'Blue Gym' research, the reporter scoffed at the end of a national breakfast news interview, "now I'm off for a bit of extra Black Gym", after travelling over night to cover this public health research in Cornwall early on summer morning.
It's not hard to understand why..... it's FREE! What contributions could a GP surgery get for referring their patents? They may even be asked to pay someone to put on activities to help build confidence and interest amoungst people for whom, getting into nature more often might need some encouragement, mentoring and confidence building. Sad, but ncreasingly true.
Who would the media go to for adverts, or other funding to pay for their time running stories? Nature is accessible to everyone and may even increase our natural ability to fend of disease, age better, stay fitter, longer, without the need for a pill or a vaccine.
Walking in the rain might sound crazy, but these healthy reasons to take a stroll during a rain shower will change the way you view a walk on a drizzly day. A host of health benefits that soothe the mind, body and soul.
8 More Healthy Reasons To Take A Walk In The Rain
A study by Columbia University used negative ion generators to see their effect on people with winter and chronic depression. The study showed that these generators helped relieve depression as much as antidepressants. The best part is that there are relatively no side effects, but scientists are still trying to figure out appropriate doses and which people it works best on.
Elsewhere experiments have been conducted with negative and positive ions using a cross-section of men and women between the ages of 20 and 65. When they were put in a room that contained primarily positive ions, they became irritable and fatigued.
However, when they were confined to a room containing primarily negative ions, their brainwaves suggested increased alertness and relaxation. Their alertness and work capacity were tested by various means.
What is significant is that they all scored higher during and immediately after their exposure to increased levels of negative ions.
So the next time you think you don’t want to get wet when it rains, I say forget the umbrella, open your arms to the sky and say, “Hello, negative ions, do your magic!”
Whilst there’s nothing like the real thing, and we should all be trying to get at least an hour outdoors a day, it’s hard for many of us to get out there at the moment.
Did you know that just sounds and smells of nature can provide benefits to our mental health and wellbeing, even if we can't get out there to emerse ourselves?
1. Playing Birdsong
Stress relief - As we are instinctively programmed to trust that birdsong means safety, it has been proven that birdsong induces the instant sensation of calm and relaxation. A casual stroll or a light jog in the park surrounded by the harmonic tones of birdsong can leave us feeling refreshed and revitalised, helping to relieve the body of tension and encourage mental positivity and well-being.
Improve focus and awareness - Birdsong can also be used to help stimulate us cognitively, whether to improve concentration in the workplace or personal projects at home. The natural sound of birdsong helps us to remain awake and alert during the hours of sunlight. A study in Liverpool examined the effects of the 'post-meal slump'. The period in which blood sugar levels begin to drop after a big meal causing drowsiness is known to have a profound detrimentl effect on concentration levels. Yet, since being introduced to a soundscape of birdsong, school pupils concentration levels dramatically increased.
Natural birdsong is so effective as it is stochastic - meaning there is no repeating rhythm and is impossible to get a particular tune or pattern to focus on. It doesn't get stuck in your head or annoy you but it doesn't lull you to sleep and bore you either.
Therapeutic - Recently introduced to busy airport terminals, commuter trains and hospitals, the general calming sound of birdsong is believed to generate a therapeutic atmosphere. Recordings of birds singing are just as effective as hearing birdsong naturally out in the open.
I'm not sure there is any other sound that can do what birdsong does. It should be part of the soundtrack to everyone's day. Here are a few links to some of the many resources online:-
In our everyday lives, we're constantly bombarded with sensory stimuli, whether from our devices, busy homes and offices, or hectic streets. Our brains need downtime, but they rarely get enough of it.
Being around water gives our brains and our senses a rest from overstimulation.
2. Water Sounds
Water sounds have long been used in meditation to create a soothing atmosphere for our minds. These sounds often endure a meditative state, without the need for mediation. Science suggests that the rhythm of ocean waves and tides coming in and out can change your mood immediately, positively affecting the rhythm of the neuronal “waves” in our brain, encouraging a more peaceful pace of thought (bringing tranquillity and relaxation).
The trickle of water, a babbling brook, small stream or an artificial fountain changes blood flow in the brain associated with relaxation. These occur in the same part of the brain associated with compassion and connection. Dentists in Malaysia have played sounds of water fountains to relax young people before dental care. Maybe from time immemorial, as part of our human DNA we’ve associated these sorts of sounds with life and clean water? It may also be associated with the fact we spend our first 9 months under water, in fluids listening to sounds through water in the womb?
Scientists also refer to the sounds of water as “white noise,” in which we can hear any number of things and we are able to let go of our thoughts and let the noise wash over us. In listening to these sounds we learn how to be present in the moment. Light rain on glass is a great example of this.
Listen to the sounds of water before bed or to relax during the day
Find a water-sounds playlist online, or buy a CD with the natural sounds of water. (This could be the ocean, gentle waterfall, rainforest, etc.) Playing these sounds before bed will help you relax and give you a better sleep.
An aquarium, tiny fountain or other water feature in your home can also create negative ions, boosting your mental energy.
3. Smells of Nature
Most people who walk into a room that smells of jasmine, vanilla or lavender, are likely to improve their mood.
Studies show that certain smells can influence parts of the brain that are responsible for productivity. School teachers use fragrance diffusers in the classroom, occasionally associated with different subjects, to stimulate brain activity and calm some children down to a more relaxed state to improve concentration and performance.
The same can be seen in the workplace. Placing an aroma diffuser in the office can improve employees’ mood and productivity, and contribute to an all-around happier work environment.
To understand the connection between smell and emotion, we first need to mention an interesting and crucial region in our brain, called the hippocampus. The hippocampus, part of a network called the limbic system and one of the most studied parts of the brain, is associated with the processes of feelings and reacting. The hippocampus also stores two types of memory: declarative and spatial. The former is related to facts and events and the latter to pathways and routes.
The hippocampus is also where short-term memories turn into long-term memories. Since smell processing is also closely related to the hippocampus, scents and emotions are tightly intertwined. Our sense of smell is constantly taking us somewhere. As we journey in and out of memories and along with them, it invokes a range of emotions that tie to our present situation in either clear or very subtle ways.
Here are a few natural smells and their known effects:-
Lavender can help you sleep
As a go-to scent for relaxation, lavender can help calm the mind and body almost instantly. But perhaps its most useful benefit is its ability to help treat insomnia in students. In a study of college students, research found that the fragrance effectively eased sleep problems and depression in the participants. Next time you're having trouble getting your shuteye, try turning to the soothing scent for a little help.
Cinnamon can sharpen your mind
This sweet-smelling spice can also boost your brain power. Researchers from Wheeling Jesuit University studied participants and found that those who took a whiff of cinnamon improved in cognitive functions like visual-motor response, working memory and attention span.
Pine can alleviate stress
There's more than one reason why pine trees bring us happiness at Christmas. A pine scent could be decreasing our anxiety, according to research. In one Japanese study, participants who went on a walk through pine forests reported significantly lower depression and stress levels. The research also discovered that anxious subjects had a greater feeling of relaxation after indulging in the scent.
Fresh-cut grass can make you more joyful
You may think mowing the lawn is an annoying, menial task, but the fresh scent the chore yields may be making you happier. Scent researchers found that a chemical released by a newly-mowed lawn can make people feel joyful and relaxed. The aroma may also prevent mental decline as you grow older. The smell apparently is so powerful that neuroscientists came up with a perfume and air fragrance that matches it so the lawnless can also reap the benefits of the feel-good scent -- no lawn mower required.
Citrus can help you feel more energized
If you're looking for a little pick-me-up, you may want to forget the cup of coffee and opt for citrus instead. Scents like lemon and orange are not only well-known for their Vitamin C properties, but simply sniffing the fruit can help boost energy and alertness. Talk about a real superfruit!
Vanilla can elevate your mood
Vanilla may often be used as a synonym for "bland," but this scent is anything but when it comes to our happiness levels. In a study published in the Proceedings of ISOT/JASTS 2004, researchers found that taking a whiff of vanilla bean elevated participants' feelings of joy and relaxation. The results were measured through mood mapping, which included emotions ranging from happiness and stimulation to apathy and irritation.
Peppermint may boost concentration
In addition to giving you sweet breath, peppermint may also do your brain a favor. A small study out of Wheeling Jesuit University found that smelling peppermint could be linked to greater cognitive stamina, motivation and overall performance. Known for invigorating the mind, it's even been used as an aid for students when taking tests. There is also a small bit of research to suggest that the menthol scent in peppermint even tricks the brain into thinking that it alleviates stuffy nasal passages -- just the thing you need when you're feeling a little under the weather.
Jasmine may ease depression
This floral scent also is serious mood enhancer. A 2010 study found that not only does the smell of jasmine create a sense of alertness, it can also serve as a way to help with depressive thoughts. Researchers found that the stimulating effect of jasmine oil can aid in the relief of depression and can lead to an uplifted mood. Pretty powerful for a tiny flower.
Apples may mitigate a migraine
You know what they say, "an apple a day keeps the doctor away" -- and that may be more true when it comes to headaches. Research has suggested that the smell of the crisp fruit may actually help ease a migraine. One 2008 study showed that those who found the scent appealing had a noticeable reduction in headache symptoms as well as shortened migraine episodes. Previous studies on a green apple's odor have also found the scent may help control feelings of anxiety during stressful moments.
Whilst there’s nothing like the real thing, and we should all be trying to get at least an hour outdoors a day, it’s hard for many of us to get out there at the moment.
Did you know that just seeing images and viewing nature on-line can provide some benefits to our mental health and wellbeing?
Studies have shown that simply having a view of nature from a hospital bed improves a patient’s recovery time, reduces the amount of medication they need and sees them being discharged home sooner.
Just viewing nature scenes positively affects you, it reduces anger, fear, and stress and increases pleasant feelings making you feel better emotionally. It can reduce blood pressure, heart rate, muscle tension, the production of stress hormones and can boost your immune system. It may even reduce mortality, according to scientists such as public health researchers Stamatakis and Mitchell.
6 IDEAS TO ADD NATURE TO INDOOR, ONLINE DAYS
1. Make sure your desktop and screen savers incorporate nature
There are lots of amazing, free and inspirational landscape and nature wallpapers online.
2. Follow and overload newsfeeds with nature – whether joining groups, to following people and organisations who post regular videos or share amazing shots of nature, wildlife and outdoor activities. Uplift your spirits and relax by looking at images of amazing bluebell woods, wildlife frolicking across meadows, incredible landscapes or virtually camping under the stars.
3. Research and get excited – connect with your local farm shop, research local rights of way to plan walks from your home (every highway authority has them online), find local parks, gardens, wildlife sites, woodlands open to the public (Woodland Trust have a great on-line search tool for all woods open to the public), even self-guided walks that were never far away, ready for when you get back out there.
4. Virtual adventures – Visit gardens, parks, protected landscapes and some of the greatest national parks across the world from the comfort of your chair. Here are a few places to start your virtual adventures: -
https://www.youtube.com/user/uknationalparks go into ‘channels’ page to view videos of your favourite parks
Search for ‘virtual walks’, ‘virtual hikes’, even ‘virtual scenery’, ‘virtual canoe trip’, ‘rowing machine scenery’ – you get the idea…. Some of it footage developed for indoor treadmills, bikes etc. More and more footage of the best beaches, mountain ranges and through some of our most stunning landscapes in the world.
5. Live webcams – There are so many places and lots of wildlife you can view live. Local, across the country and worldwide. Look through a live window on nature! A few links and examples:-
Search for ‘local web cams’ to get sites like this http://www.wirralcam.com/
Instant access to inland water locations https://www.canals.com/webcams.htm
Visit surf beach locations live at https://magicseaweed.com/
Take virtual visit to places you’ve always wanted to visit e.g. the Lake District https://www.visitcumbria.com/webcams/
Or further a field https://www.webcambiglook.com/nationalparks.htm
6. Join online nature-based communities and groups - get involved, join people talking and sharing their experiences or action to help nature on-line. This is a great way to become connected with other like-minded people, locally or globally.
Lots of other ‘non online’ things can help us, like indoor plants and mounted prints of natural scenes have been shown to speed up the body’s ability to heal, recover and reduce stress. We’ll be posting other ideas on how you can stimulate nature’s ‘feel good factor’ at home with ‘sounds and smells’ of nature in our next post 😉
Don’t underestimate the benefits of spring sunshine amid the coronavirus outbreak.
The sun has a positive effect on the function of our bodies.
We know that sunlight is beneficial - it helps our mood, productivity, physical and mental health.
Sunlight physically triggers the production of Vitamin D, which in turn aids the efficiency of your nerve, muscle and immune system whilst also raising endorphins and production of serotonin - a chemical nerve cells produce making you feel happier and calmer.
What happens when we can't get out to enjoy the sun as much as we'd like to?
The right level of Vitamin D in the body immunes us against diseases like osteoporosis, cancer, diabetes, and Alzheimer’s. Besides, it also ensures the smooth functioning of the immune system.
Studies have indicated that a large chunk of the population today is deficient of the ‘sunshine vitamin,’ which explains the massive increase in fatal diseases today, and rather than relying on human-made supplements, a close connection to nature can help in replenishing the deficit.
Those without the luxury of a garden or large open space or self-isolating should not underestimate the power of sunlight outside whilst confined indoors.
When sunlight streams in through a window - it naturally lifts the mood without the harmful UV rays.
Pay attention to the times of days when the sun is shining through the windows of your home and find that super sunny spot to warm yourself and soak in the sunshine. Set up tables in that spot, play areas or cozy sitting spaces. Add a comfy chair and some pillows and turn it into a reading nook. Rotate your houseplants in this sunny spot.
Notice how the light changes in that location throughout the day and at different times of the year. During the perfect time of day, when the sun is shining through, sit, play, and enjoy it’s warmth.
Getting sunlight first thing in the morning is one of the best things you can do. First, it tells your body clock it’s time to start the day. The science of chronobiology shows sunlight tells your body to stop producing melatonin, which is the hormone that controls sleep patterns. When melatonin shuts down, you become more alert. Exposure to sunlight and natural light helps you keep your circadian rhythms steady, and will also help you set a constant time to go to sleep and get up.
I know it sounds crazy, but we’re spending way too much time in our shoes and insulated from the earth in our cars and houses. Remember as a kid when you would run around barefoot in the garden, across the lawn, or a sandy beach - how great it felt? Well, it’s time to be a kid again. There are real health benefits in connecting your feet to the earth’s powerful electrons.
The earth is like a giant battery with natural low-level electrical charges. You know when you say “I feel grounded, or balanced, or centered”, well that’s how your body feels when it’s in contact with the electrical charges of the earth - you’re grounded and in harmony with nature.
Ideally you should ground yourself for 20 minutes per day - break it up into 10 minute sessions if you have to - maybe walk around your garden barefoot if you have to talk on the phone. When you start to do it regularly, you’ll be reminded of how good it felt when you were a kid.
What the science says
Scientific research has explored grounding for inflammation, cardiovascular disease, muscle damage, chronic pain, and mood.
The central theory from one review study is that grounding affects the living matrix, which is the central connector between living cells.
Electrical conductivity exists within the matrix that functions as an immune system defence, similar to antioxidants. They believe that through grounding, the natural defences of the body can be restored.
In another study on grounding and heart health, healthy participants were grounded using patches on the palms of their hands and soles of their feet.
Blood measurements were taken before and after grounding to determine any changes in red blood cell fluidity, which plays a role in heart health. The results indicated significantly less red blood cells clumping after grounding, which suggests benefits for cardiovascular health.
Another research examined the role of grounding on post-exercise muscle damage. Both grounding patches and mats and measured creatine kinase, white blood cell count, and pain levels before and after grounding.
Blood work indicated that grounding reduced muscle damage and pain in participants. This suggests that grounding may influence healing abilities.
More evidence on grounding for pain reduction and mood improvement. Before grounding therapy, physical and emotional stress and pain were common side effects of their physically demanding jobs. After earthing therapy, pain, stress, depression, and fatigue were all reduced among participants.