When was the last time you sat outside and just listened to the bird songs, breathed in the smells of pine or sweet gum as the breeze soothes your skin?
For most of human history we spent our days outside among our fellow beings. Our bodies are made to have our feet on the soil. Our senses are attuned to the sights, sounds, and feels, of the forest. Our nervous systems react accordingly. When we encounter a bear or a mountain lion or some other danger, our sympathetic nervous system tells us to flee, fight, or freeze. When we’re in this mode, adrenaline and cortisol put our bodies into survival mode. This impacts all of our body’s systems.
Today, however, our senses alert to the sights smells and sounds of a world people have created where danger signals abound. Our bodies automatically leap into action at the ding of a text or email alert. We feel the danger as our car flies along highways. Many of us now spend much of our time in high alert mode. As a result, we might have a hard time sleeping. Our breathing is shallow. Even if we eat healthy foods, our bodies can’t digest the nutrients and we may have trouble eliminating waste–our body’s purification system. Our minds can’t learn in this mode, nor do they retain information. For some of us, this becomes the norm.
In some cases, historic trauma has interrupted this response to being outdoors. But in the effort toward restoring our health, it can be can be reclaimed. You may have heard of forest bathing, a direct translation of the Japanese term shinrin yoku. When we’re around trees, we are literally bathing in phytoncides, the chemicals they share to bolster each other’s immune systems. It turns out, phytoncides also strengthen our immune systems.
It might take a growing body of research to convince us of what our bodies already know–our very lives depend on the natural world. Nature R&R is a two-hour experience where we give ourselves the gift of remembering. All ways of being are welcome.