We are living in an incredibly fast-paced age. We are advanced in so many ways. But do we examine the costs of this progress? Are we asking the right questions? Do we even ask ourselves these questions! As we become technologically advanced, are we becoming inversely disconnected with our surroundings? Our environment? Ourselves? These are the questions we need to ask and then we are going to delve into how we can reduce stress by reconnecting.
What we know
It is estimated that 45% of Australians will experience a mental health condition in their lifetime. In any one year, 2 million Australians suffer from anxiety. Almost half the population is doomed to be mentally unwell. It is a social catosphere we have blindly accepted.
It is astonishing, but not surprising, given the notion that as we advance we disconnect with some aspect of ourselves. Generally, these statistics favour women. However, I suspect men suffer just as much; they just don’t talk about it as openly as women do. Whilst mental health is acknowledged and supported in most work places, it is still the elephant in the room. In saying that, things are changing: there are wonderful organisations such as R U OK which aims to bridge the gap between mental health and talking about it.
What we can do
What I would like to provide is a simple idea, that anyone can do, at any given time which has proven benefits on all aspects of your health; but, most importantly, mental health.
BIOPHILIA: the idea that humans possess an innate tendency to seek connections with nature.
Sometimes, we don’t actually need science to validate an idea or hypothesis. The proof can be in the pudding. How many times have you needed to step outside to clear their heads? Or go for a walk after a fight to calm down? How much better do you feel after having a day or weekend away in nature?
While we don’t need science to validate this, the science is there.
– Studies have shown that walking in nature has beneficial effects on patients with major depressive disorder
– An experiment throughout forests in Japan found that subjects showed a decrease in cortisol levels, a decrease in sympathetic nervous activity and a decrease in systolic blood pressure and heart rate. In summary it concluded: forest therapy reduces stress levels. Parasympathetic nervous activity increased dramatically, showing a relaxed state.
These findings are profound. Whilst we label this as nature therapy, I believe it is a reconnection. We are not actually separate from nature. I need only to provide you with one example to prove this connection. We sleep when the sun goes down: we wake when the sun rises.
Can you commit to a minimum of 15 minutes a day outside in nature? This could be a walk, a swim, or simply sitting outside in a park. Take your shoes off. Get your bare feet connecting with the earth. The soles of our feet have an abundant network of nerves. If we look at the fundamentals of reflexology, the aim is to create a response throughout the entire body by stimulating points on the feet. If we look at the principles of reiki and energetic medicine, the souls of our feet and palms of our hands are major entry and exit points for energy.
The earth is one giant conductor of energy, constantly receiving and distributing. It’s also negatively charged; that is its natural state. When we ground our bare feet to the earth, the entry points on our soles absorb these negatively charged electrons which, in the body, help fight free radicals that are known to cause oxidative damage and inflammation. As the earth’s natural state is to be in balance and harmony, you too are absorbing that balanced and harmonious energy.
This is called grounding. Grounding can help switch you back into para-sympathic nervous system dominance, which is a relaxed state. Not to mention, being outdoors gives you a hit of vitamin D which is a major modulator of mood and immunity.
The power of plants
My final suggestion is sprucing up your home with plants. Back in the 1950s Maslow (an iconic theorist) found that aesthetically pleasing spaces had a positive impact on energy levels and well-being. Research shows that the presence of natural elements indoors can evoke the same benefits as the outdoor environment.
Re-connecting with nature is the most cost-effective way we can reduce stress levels. It is something we can all implement in to our day. After all: we actually do have time. It’s how we prioritise it.