Fifty years ago today, Earth Day celebration began worldwide to celebrate this place we call home and to raise awareness about the importance of protecting our beautiful planet for future generations. Since then, we have learned much about how the Earth reciprocates our intentions.
Americans today are spending less time in nature, which is directly associated with declining human health. Furthermore, as we isolate ourselves from the natural world there is a tendency not to see the destruction left behind by human activity leading to changes in planetary health and climate change.
One of the key indicators for human health is time spent outside. Multiple studies have shown beneficial effects on blood pressure, blood sugar, cortisol levels, heart rate, and immune function as well as improved mood, less stress, and improved sense of well-being. There are multiple explanations for these health benefits, including increased vitamin D production, increased physical activity, increased socialization, and exposure to immune supporting phytochemicals called phytoncides.
As you celebrate Earth Day 2020, consider some simple steps to getting yourself outside more frequently and enjoy the health benefits Mother Nature offers.
- Go for a walk. Ideally, find a park to walk in. Leave your electronics behind, no need to monitor your steps, listen to music or podcasts. Let your senses feel the environment and begin to see if you can notice anything new, maybe a fragrance, an emerging plant, a taste, a sound, or even the feel of a tree with your hands or the soil on the ground under your feet. What’s happening inside your body, any new sensations there? Listen to your heart, what is it trying to say? Your gut intuition? Maybe it is leading you somewhere other than where the mind wants to go. Be creative, enjoy and, most importantly, have fun. If you don’t have greenspace, like a park, then simply take a walk along a road or sidewalk.
- Plant or tend a garden. April is the time to begin considering and planting a garden. I can think of no other way in which nature encourages engagement more than gardening. While garden centers may be closed as a result of COVID-19 “Stay at Home” orders, there are plenty of resources and opportunities to learn on line about gardening and seeds and supplies are readily available.
- Drive less. If an errand is less than 5 miles away, consider walking or bicycling rather than jumping in the car.
- Walk barefoot. The science of Earthing continues to evolve. Most anyone can attest to the pleasure of walking barefoot on a sandy beach. However, most of us do not have this access. Rather, simply take your shoes off and walk in your yard or a park for 15-20 minutes. I invite you to even lie down in the lawn or on some natural landscape like a rock. Earth electrons are regenerative and we don’t experience this natural regenerative therapy while wearing shoes or spending time indoors.
- Enjoy some sun. The sun helps us make vitamin D and multiple studies demonstrate that vitamin D levels correlate with improved health and well-being. Additionally, the deeper penetrating UVA light helps release nitric oxide which improves blood flow to cells and tissue encouraging better cellular health. I typically recommend 15-20 minutes of sunlight early in the morning and late in the day. During peak intensity do protect your skin from burning.