This month, International Earth Day takes a look at how you can harness the amazing power of the Earth in subtle (and not so subtle) ways for your own health—and to connect in meaningful ways with our planet. It is easy to take our planet for granted and all the benefits it provides us. Take a moment to appreciate all the gifts of health that Planet Earth offers you.
- Forest Bathing. Forest-bathing, or “shinrin-yoku,” literally means “taking in the forest atmosphere.” Although the concept of strolling through nature is not exclusively a Japanese concept, it was Japanese scientists who initially declared that this activity could actually effect health in specific ways. Studies have found that trees and other vegetation emit phytoncides, terpenes with some amazing healing effects. A 2004 comprehensive review of two dozen Shinrin-Yoku studies conducted in part by Chiba University in Japan found that forest bathing dramatically lowers cortisol levels, blood pressure and sympathetic nerve activity (i.e. the flight or fight response) while “turning on” healing chemicals associated with the parasympathetic nervous system.
- Gardening. Gardening is not just healthy because of the home-grown
tomatoes and lettuce you get to eat as the fruits of your labor. As strange as this may sound, the common garden soil bacteria Mycobacterium has also been found to have an effect on human neurology; it can promote the production of neurons that release serotonin. And Mycobacterium has also been found to lower inflammation rates. So go ahead and get some dirt underneath your fingernails — it will help you produce a “jolly state of mind” and may even lead to healing!
- Heliotherapy. Heliotherapy is exposing oneself to the sun for a specific amount of time (fifteen to twenty minutes is ideal, say most experts) to benefit from its healing effects. One of the boons of sun exposure for your health, of course, is a natural increase in vitamin D. The majority of people who have been diagnosed with Breast Cancer have very low levels of D. Testing your D levels and then raising them if needed is extremely important if you are on a healthy breast journey. In addition, simply getting 10 minutes of sun a day can help your immune system and slash your chances of catching a cold by 40%!
- Grounding/Earthing. “Earthing” is what many of us did as a kid in the summertime and what our early ancestors did most of the time…walking barefoot on the earth! Earthing or Grounding means skin to earth contact and, believe it or not, this simple act can be profoundly healing. A joint Polish-American study found that “contact with the Earth—whether being outside barefoot or indoors connected to grounded conductive systems—may be a simple, natural, and yet profoundly effective environmental strategy against chronic stress, ANS dysfunction, inflammation, pain, poor sleep, disturbed HRV, and many common health disorders, including cardiovascular disease.” A great film to learn more about how this works is “The Grounded,” which chronicles how an entire Alaskan town felt the effects of “earthing” on their health and well-being.
- Minerals. Volumes could be written (and have!) about the importance of the earth’s minerals for our bodies. Magnesium, potassium, calcium, selenium and iodine are just some of the heavy hitters when it comes to making sure you have enough for optimum health. There was a time when what we ate and drank could provide us with all the mineral content we needed. Sadly, this is no longer the case. For most of the essential minerals that our bodies need for literally every function in the body, some form of supplementation is needed (although be wary of calcium supplementation; that particular mineral is best obtained through proper nutrition). For more information about many of the minerals needed for breast health, be sure to check out the blogs section of Breast Cancer Conqueror, where many of them are discussed.
There is no doubt that spending time with nature will inevitably lead to more appreciation of not only the natural world but our own place within it as well. Ultimately, this is what natural health is all about—using the mechanisms of nature (including our own body systems) to obtain balance and thriving health.
Obtaining balance within helps us to then extend that balance out to the world as a whole. So be sure to spend some healthy time connecting to the planet on which we live, and start feeling energized as a result!