Most of us find ourselves in a constant state of unrest, moving from one cubed environment to the next; and for brief moments in between all the commotion is an urge—whether conscious or not— to slow down, stop, and smell the roses. Sound familiar?
It’s likely that this subtle longing can be traced back to our ancestral nomads who wandered outdoors and depended on natural resources for shelter and survival. Although modern beings have certainly advanced since rugged times, research suggests that being in cloistered environments for long, extended periods can affect one’s physiological and psychological wellness in a myriad of ways.
According to the School of Health and Social Development,
“an almost complete disconnection from the natural world could be why mental illnesses are becoming more prevalent in young people” (a phenomena that surely also affects the adult population).
It’s no surprise that urbanization has led to this existing gap, as studies reflect that this current disconnection isn’t one without consequence. The good news is—if you are suffering from the indoor blues, the cure might be simply waiting for you just outside the door.
Here are a few Eco-friendly solutions you can apply next time you find yourself a bit more blue than usual. (Please note: the following suggestions are meant to promote health & wellness; however, if you are suffering from depression, please consult with a physician).
It’s been proven that plants and natural environments contain restorative properties that not only reduce anxiety and stress, but also elevate mood and happiness. A recent study from the Journal of Physiological Anthropology observed that
a positive affect increased, and anger decreased after 50 minutes of walking in a nature reserve; the opposite pattern emerged in an urban environment.
As it turns out, although walking is a great form of exercise, walking in a park (or amongst a natural setting) is not equivalent to walking in a busy, commercialized location; the latter might actually dampen your mood much more! So next time you find yourself with a case of the ‘grumpy-gills,’ take a 15-60 minute walk outside or venture to a nearby park. This might actually cool your nerves and decrease your temper more than if you were to escape to a crowded place (i.e. the mall).
Perceiving a plant or natural environment, through the visual sense alone, can impact the mind and body more than you might think. In a study conducted by behavioral scientist Roger Ulrich, Ulrich examined the recovery rates of patients who underwent gall bladder surgery and found,
patients who had a natural scene to view recovered much faster than those patients who viewed an urban scene.
Additionally, Kaplan showed that a view of nature from the window contributed greatly to the residents’ wellbeing (Koga and Iwasaki, 2013).
If you happen to work in a place filled with windows, then you might have a higher sense of wellbeing than those with a blank canvas before them; however, if you aren’t fortunate enough to have a view of the outdoors, no need to worry, you can always purchase a calendar filled with natural, lush landscapes or a low-maintenance plant to produce the same calming effects (this can also be applied to the home space).
Moreover, there is also curative power in connecting with nature via one’s sense of touch. In past studies conducted, Japanese Anthropologist Miyazaki et.al found that “activity in the prefrontal area [of the brain] was calmed by the olfactory stimulus of wood and the forest environment.” Therefore, “the same change would be anticipated in this study through the stimulus of touching plant foliage.” Simply touching a plant on your walk, using aromatherapy oils, smudging, and gardening can tame the nerves and ease stress naturally.
An activity coined as “Earthing” (or grounding) is proven to cause “better sleep and reduced pain just from walking barefoot outside or sitting, working, or sleeping outdoors” (Chevalier et al., 2012). Scientifically, this occurs because there’s a transfer of the Earth’s electrons from the ground into the body, creating this earth-mind-body connection. Earthing can be so therapeutic that Chevalier notes: “clinicians could recommend outdoor ‘barefoot sessions’ to patients,” since “going barefoot as little as 30 or 40 minutes daily can significantly reduce pain and stress.” Sometimes it’s simple solutions that have the greatest impact on the self. Remember to take time out of your day to enjoy the natural pleasures that life has to offer, doing so may contribute to wellbeing more than you’d think!
Quick Interesting Fact: Forest environments in particular have been the focus of ‘forest therapy’ or ‘forest bathing’ in Japan. Many studies of forest therapy have been conducted and proven effective in terms of physiological and psychological wellness.
Koga, K. and Iwasaki, Y. (2013) ‘Psychological and physiological effect in humans of touching plant foliage – using the semantic differential method and cerebral activity as indicators’, Journal of Physiological Anthropology, 32(1), p. 7. doi: 10.1186/1880-6805-32-7.
Chevalier, G., Sinatra, S. T., Oschman, J. L., Sokal, K. and Sokal, P. (2012) ‘Earthing: Health implications of Reconnecting the human body to the earth’s surface electrons’, Journal of Environmental and Public Health, 2012, pp. 1–8. doi: 10.1155/2012/291541.