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Want to lower your blood pressure? Keen to boost your immune system? Desperate to destress? Reaching for prescription drugs is a common method people use to combat illnesses brought on by our hectic lifestyles. However many people are finding that the cure for our modern ills isn’t found in a bottle but out in the wild.
Going to ground
The practice of grounding (or earthing) is essentially spending time in nature. Something that our ancestors once did regularly has slowly been eroded as we live and work in increasingly urbanised environments connected by freeways but disconnected from the forests and fields that once dotted the landscape in years gone by.
Now, people all over the world are cottoning on to the positive side effects that come with a little nature time. From spending lunch breaks barefoot in the park to dedicating a whole weekend to camping in the wild, spending time immersed in nature away from screens, artificial lighting and noise pollution is an enjoyable way to step away from the relentless barrage of smartphone messages, status updates and emails that have infiltrated our lives. But now it appears that the scientific community has proven that being grounded in nature is actually beneficial to your health too.
We all know that the sun gives us energy, but did you know the earth also gives us energy. The earth’s surface is a very rich source of free electrons and when your bare feet or skin come into direct contact with it your body absorbs these free electrons, nature’s antioxidants that help neutralise excess free radicals that lead to inflammation and disease in the body. Taking a 30 minute bare foot walk, sitting or lying down with skin in direct contact with the earth can have an immediate effect on the body by reducing inflammatory pain and leave you feeling more energised .
A different kind of bath
While the benefits of taking a long, hot bath are well known, another type of bath is worth a look (and you don’t even need to take your clothes off to enjoy it). Known as ‘forest bathing’, the practice of spending time surrounded by trees has some seriously noteworthy health benefits. Proven to strengthen the immune system, improve mood, lower blood pressure and reduce the production of stress hormones, Japanese doctors prescribe Shinrin-yoku (the practice of healing through being immersed in nature or forest bathing) to patients suffering from the stress.
Studies showed that after spending just 30 minutes in a forest, urban dwellers had lower heart rates, lower blood pressure and less production of cortisol (the hormone that runs wild when you’re stressed). With blood pressure medication and anti-depressants being two of the most prescribed drugs in the Western world, forest bathing is a promising alternative that comes free-of-charge.
Breathe in the good
Phytoncide is an organic compound plants and trees emit. It especially comes from trees like Cedar that have a mix of pinene and limonene. The essential oils that permeates the air from these trees, which you inhale while in nature, have been proven to increase white blood cell count, improve our immune function and have been reported to reduce tumours and virus-infected cells. If you are not in the vicinity of these types of tress, the effects of smelling cedar essential oil or incense can provide a similar effect.
Forty shades of green
Don’t live near a forest? Fear not because many studies have indicated that just looking at and being around greenery in the form of plants, trees and parks is beneficial. One study showed that patients with hospital rooms that faced parks experienced shorter hospital stays and fewer complications than patients facing brick walls. This means that even if you’re in the office battling deadlines you can still nip out to a park in your lunch break, kick off your shoes and spend time admiring trees and breathing in fresh air laced with phytoncide.
Planning regular breaks in nature (think hiking holidays) is advisable but there are everyday ways to ground yourself. Take a walk in the park, cultivate a garden in your backyard or on your balcony, decorate your space with indoor plants, volunteer for a day of tree planting and take every opportunity to kick off your shoes and feel the sand, earth or grass between your toes.
When the going gets tough, go to ground. Your health depends on it!
Stuck inside? We love a grounding incense from Bodha contains earthy notes of Japanese cypress, cedar and bergamot while Golda Hiba Wood Atmospheric Mist is made with Hiba wood essential oil.