"Irwin, I am so pleased you decided to serve breakfast outside under the stars. It's the perfect setting for my lesson which is this; a frog's best physician is nature itself. With illness, depression, and anxiety at all-time highs everywhere, my son, it's time more of us...both humans and we frogs....look to Mother Nature for answers. Everybody knows that frogs love nature but did you know, Tadpole, that humans harbor a deeply evolved connection to nature?" I thought about it and nodded in agreement. Humans do seem to appreciate nature but often forget that it's there, preferring instead to turn to chemically-made pills to solve their health issues. They don't seem to have time for their Mother anymore. Dharma continued, "My boy, researchers are discovering that there are tangible benefits for humans who reconnect with green, growing spaces. If they'd let it, nature could occupy center-stage in promoting their well-being. There are many ways that nature benefits everyone...no matter the species. And, here, Irwin, are a few of the most important ways Mother Nature can keep us well."
1. Nature can lower your heart rate. Dharma reminded me that as the world gets irritatingly louder every day with horns honking, jets whizzing by overhead, and rock music blaring it is becoming increasingly more difficult to simply "chill out." The antidote? Nature, of course. Listening to the sounds of nature like birds singing, frogs croaking, and the wind in the trees has a naturally calming effect. Throughout evolution, signing birds literally reminded humans that no storms were brewing. That the weather was safe. Birdsong can still signal it's calm and safe. Josh Smyth, a Penn State University professor who studies the effects of nature sounds on human hearts and hormones, suggests listening to soundscapes for 20 minutes a day. And if you can't get outside, guess what? There's an app for that. Nature sounds can be found online as downloads and there are various CDs available, as well.
2. Boost your immunity. The human nose, just like ears, forms a pathway to the primal, emotional brain. Japanese researchers have found that the scent given off by evergreen trees significantly lowers the heart rate of babies and a mist of essential oils from the hinoki cypress tree pumped up the activity of natural killer cells, a type of immune cell in adults. When you're walking, crumple pine needles and take a whiff. No pine trees locally? That's okay. All kinds of essential oils abound.
3. Inspire greater compassion. I know that whenever I spend time in nature, I experience a sense of wonder and awe. Recent studies are now showing that experiencing awe inspires compassion, generosity, and connection in humans. nature inspires awe in both large and small doses. So get outside and take a look around. Even if you live in a big city, there are green spaces with trees and flowers. or go to the rooftop at night and gaze up at the stars.
4. Increase your brain power. As it turns out, children may need nature more an anybody. This could be why schools in Finland take outdoor breaks several times a day. Research shows that even small bursts of nature can boost attention spans, test scores, and exercise levels...especially in girls. Nature also provides kids with exploratory play which helps to lay down critical neural pathways and develops gross motor skills. Today's kids may balk at the thought of leaving behind their computers but once outside, it won't take them long to start running around, climbing trees, and exploring their surroundings.
5. Improves your state of mind. Time spent alone in nature not only improves creativity but it also beneficial for good mental health. Need to solve a problem or maybe just feel a bit down? Head outside and take a walk. It'll clear your head and make you feel like a million bucks!
6. Encourage deeper sleep. Who doesn't want to sleep better? Take small outdoor breaks from desk chairs and indoor pollutants and work there. Besides the brain boosts of being in nature, full-spectrum light helps reset humans' diurnal rhythm which improves sleep and can counter depression. Vitamin D from natural sunlight has been shown to reduce the risk of certain cancers.
It was an especially nice lesson this week and it felt good to be outside under the morning stars and watch the sun come up. The tea was warm and the breakfast filled out bellies. After Dharma hopped off, as I cleared up the remains of our picnic, I felt especially good. I was refreshed, recharged, and ready for whatever the new day might bring. Mother Nature is a powerful healer and her medicine cupboard is always filled with the most pleasant remedies. Someone once said, "No medicine can compensate for unhealthy living." One of the best ways to keep healthy is by spending time in nature on a regular basis. Nature is the best medicine. And Dharma agrees.