The Secret Behind Why Nature Makes Us Feel So Good

The Secret Behind Why Nature Makes Us Feel So Good

We have covered in recent blog posts how seasonal change can affect our vitamin D levels causing negative symptoms like depression, or Seasonal Affective Disorder (check out the post, here) This is one way that nature can have an impact on our physiological being. I am extremely excited to discuss with you one of the curious ways nature can have a positive effect on us. I am also extremely excited to share how this positive effect can interact and enhance our paleo lifestyles, and how we can use “Biophilia” to our utmost advantage.

Biophilia

After taking a long hike, camping or spending time purposely or accidentally in nature I often feel a sense of revitalization. My mind feels refreshed and inspired, my body lighter and reinvigorated, the air smelling and tasting fresh and full of oxygen. This common affect that nature has on our bodies and minds has a term: biophilia.

Biophilia is the principle that nature, or the presence of nature, has a positive impact on our physiological, emotional and mental being.

This principle, and the positive effect it has on us, is backed up by several credible scientific studies. And like mentioned previously, if you can recall a time you spent in nature, think about how you felt while you we’re surrounded in it and how you felt afterwards.

The term was first introduced in the 1960’s by a psychologist Erich Fromm. He described the term as ”the passionate love of life and all that is alive” . The term didn’t really gain momentum until 1984 when Edward O. Wilson released a book hypothesizing that biophilia was a genetic and instinctual response. Get his book, here. So even the draw towards vacationing can start to show our instinctual need to migrate away from the cities and get in touch with our roots, literally.

The Paleo-Biophilic Connection

When we discuss “paleo” we are often using our paleo ancestors diet in reference to how we maintain  nutrition and meal plans now. Our ancestors hunted and foraged, ate whole foods, plants & nuts. I often hear paleo influences putting the ancestral diet on a pedestal. But why don’t we look at the entire lifestyle of our paleo ancestors and dissect how other lifestyle factors impacted their wellbeing? Like there living environments, for example. Our paleo ancestors didn’t have McMansions or permanent structures. The majority of their of their lives was spent with their toes in the dirt, amongst the natural environment. If we are looking to recreate a diet and lifestyle that resembles that of our paleo ancestors, then it is crucial to incorporate nature in addition to ancestral nutrition and movement.

How Biophilia Effects Us

So how does being in nature, seeing nature, smelling or even hearing things that represent nature affect us? Biophilia has been proven to have the following affect on humans.

 

How Much and What Kind of Nature?

There are several theories to why biophilia is considered effective. Some think that the air quality and movement associated with being in nature is what’s responsible. Or that being in nature is associated with socializing. But it is pretty safe to say that just looking at nature spurs an immediate effect on us.

The effects are not discriminatory. Nature in this sense can range from an immersive forest, a local park, or trees planted along a street in an urban setting. Any size pocket of nature will do.

Scientists know this to be true because represented nature can have the same effects as physical nature. Landscape photography, indoor plants, or natural screensavers will have the same physiological impacts as being surrounded by nature. So for example, if you are unable to be placed in a hospital room with a window, a room with nature photographs will have the same effect on recovery rates.

The exposure time needed for these positive benefits to occur is minimal, too. So, you don’t have to take a 4 day off the grid camping adventure to feel biophilia in effect.

How to Use it to Your Advantage

So now that we know the effects and science behind biophilia, we need to implement. The benefits of biophilia are necessary to maintaining a healthy and balanced life. One of the biggest suspected causes of autoimmune diseases and conditions like adrenal fatigue is stress.  There are many ways to do this, and they don’t always include viewing nature. According to NCBI – Biophilia can be engaged by acoustic impact, and even olfactory implementation.

 

Ways to Make it Work For You

1) Horticulture Therapy

This practice has been around for centuries. Getting dirt under your nails and watching the herecletian cycle of plants gives us a sense of calm and wellbeing. This also keeps us present & maintain mindfulness. You could even use horticulture as a way to grow your own fruits and vegetables. Live in a city? See number 2.

2) Urban Farms

If you are city bound, have no fear. Cities often recognize the importance of nature to human existence, and many make strides to incorporate nature in various ways. One of these ways is the urban farm. These farms are plots of lands run by the community. Typically you can purchase or rent a plot of land and can grow herbs, vegetables, fruits or flowers. This is a great way to again, get your hands dirty but also cultivate a sustainable local food supply.

3) Hiking

Many places have trails or parks that can accommodate various levels of physical activity. This is one way to immerse yourself physically in nature, while also engaging in physical movement. Walking and hiking has been proven to have a positive effect on our physical and mental health, coupled with the outdoor setting, this activity becomes an easy way to improve our mood and wellbeing.

4) Thermal Comfort

Do you, or does anyone that you know, have to sleep with a fan on? This is also very common but another way biophilia inherently inserts its presence on our lives. The static sound of a fan along with the gentle breeze is reminiscent of wind, giving a sense of security and nearness with nature.

5) Lighting

We have discussed on the blog how the sun can affect our Vitamin D levels and lead to Seasonal Affective Disorder. Interior lighting can also have a negative effect on us. In your workplace, source a cool bright white light to improve productivity. Natural light is the best in this situation.

6) Noise Machine

As mentioned previously, nature sounds engage biophilic effects. Nature noise machines have become mainstream, especially for those that have trouble sleeping. I recommend downloading an app like “Rain, Rain” , or getting a noise machine. This is my favorite noise machine ever, it has several noise settings including brown noise (which I utilize all the time) pink and white noise, as well as environmental sounds like rain and ocean waves.

7) Natural Scents

Long gone are the days where people are seeking out cheap candles with toxic chemicals. Today, we have many options when it comes to sourcing natural candles or incense. One company that is doing a great job of keeping things really clean and maintaining a great scent is Juniper Ridge. Their scientists backpack into different forests to pull oils directly from nature and into their product. Their incense has an earthy, mossy scent, that makes me feel like I am taking a walk in the woods. Or you can try burning Palo Santo wood, which has an amazing delicate aroma.

8) Using Textures and Colors in Your Home

I am not saying you need to go 100% boho with your interiors, but incorporating throw blankets, rugs, or even tiles reminiscent of nature can invoke biophilia. Think stone tiles, natural fiber materials, and natural light.

Nature can have a positive effect on us, the proof is all there! I have always cherished the time I can spend outside, so when I learned of this principle it hit me to the core. An actual word behind why I feel like a new women after camping or hiking. Or a reason behind why I wanted a picture of a deeply wooded forest as my screensaver.

Does this hit home to you too? Let me know what you’re thinking.

How to Stay Sane This Holiday Season

How to Stay Sane This Holiday Season

As much as the holidays mean spending time with our loved ones  – they also can mean…STRESS!

Pulling together gifts, cooking, indulging in treats and extra time with your family – no matter how much we love them, can lead to burning out.

And we all know that can happen, FAST.

I think a lot of us are consistently running at 100 MPH all the time, but it feels like the holidays exacerbate this even more.

I am SOO hoping to stay ahead of my stress this year, which is why I spent some serious time making a plan for the best techniques to use when I am feeling frazzled.

It can be hard to remember to take time to take care of ourselves and maintain our health during the holiday season –  so check out these tips to help keep you calm, cool and collected.

#1 Magnesium Bath

Want to get in touch with your luxurious, goddess self? Fill up a hot bath with magnesium flakes. Try adding flower petals and lighting a candle to create some serious atmosphere.

#2 4-7-8 Breathing

Sit upright with your back straight and breathe in through your nose for 4 counts. Hold your breath in for 7 counts, and then exhale for 8 counts. Repeat this process 4 times. This exercise is literally retraining your brain on how to hold deeper breathes, and forces you to pay attention to your breathing patterns. This exercise has really helped me in deep bouts of anxiety.

#3 Progressive Muscle Relaxation 

This popular method is based on the theory that if you can control the tenseness and relaxation in your physical body, your mental tenseness can also be controlled. Lay somewhere where you will not be bothered and tense a muscle group, for example, tightening your fist. Hold for a few seconds and release. Move through each muscle group until you have worked through your body. Pay attention to how your muscles feel after releasing the tension.

#4 Basic Emotional Regulation 

Remember this Acronym :
PL  Treat Physical Illness
– Eat
A – Avoid Mood-Altering Drugs
S – Sleep Well
E – Exercise
The science behind this shows that you cannot help your mind relax unless you are taking care of your physical body first or in unison.

#5 Get Outside 

Biophilia is the principle that states that when you are surrounded by nature, (this can even be a picture of nature) your mood is improved, you will experience stress relief, and even increases the speed at which people heal. Get outside – Take a forest bath!

#6 Meditate 

Yes, I know meditating always makes these lists, but that is because IT WORKS. I promise. There is the research to prove it. Take 3-5 minutes and sit with your eyes closed and back straight and focus on your breathing. Or complete a guided meditation, like any of these. There is no wrong way for your thoughts to travel while meditating.

#7 Drink some tea 

Preferably some non-stimulating blends like chamomile, ginger or peppermint. Sometimes I let the steam wash over my face before sipping and really absorb myself in the moment. This can create some additional moisture on the face and eyes, opening up the pores and creating a warm embrace. 

#8 Exercise

Even if it is a light walk, get out and exercise! We have all heard, ENDORPHINS MAKE YOU HAPPY! Even better, get outside to exercise and receive the benefits from #5 too!

#9 Get busy

Science also shows that spending time with loved ones and being intimate will help release stress and boost mood. So grab your beaux and load up the Netflix queue. Not feeling it?

#10 Pet your Pet

There is a reason cat cafes are becoming so popular in large cities. Once again, science has proven that spending time with our pets releases stress. So give your little cutie a much needed snuggle

#11 Be alone 

In order to fully register and process our thoughts and feelings, we really need some solo time (even you extroverts out there!). Make some time for yourself, whether it’s time in the shower or on your morning commute and focus on your thoughts and feelings.

#12 Gratitude journal

 One way to check your stress is to switch up your perspective. Jotting down a few things you are grateful for can really help center your thoughts and refresh your perspective.

#13 Work on a passion project

For me, it can be as simple as going dancing or focusing on what makes my body feel best. Spending time on the tasks that fuel our internal, creative or passionate fire can help us remain focused on long term goals and desires or just remain present.

 

What about you, love? Do you have any go to stress relief tips for the holiday season, or even year round? I would love to hear them and have more options in my back pocket – leave a comment with your favorite way to stay sane, below!

 

<3

How to Camp Paleo

How to Camp Paleo

I saw a facebook video the other day talking about Japanese Forest Bathing and how it had been shown to improve health and well being, even without any form of exercise.

The personal experience of myself and many friends and relatives can confirm this anecdotally.

Being out in nature is just better. 

It’s not just about the great Vitamin D, or the great hikes.  It’s about being outside, with the trees and plants, connected to the earth the way we once were.

Ancestrally, we probably spent our entire lifetimes mostly out of doors.  Even as recently as a few hundred years ago, many of our ancestors were farming people and spent a great deal of time connected to nature. 

Somehow along the way, we’ve lost that.

But it’s that time of the year!  The weather is just right and it makes sense to hit a state park and go camping.

But seriously, have you tasted camp food?

Or what do you do when your allergies make being outside completely miserable?

And WHAT ABOUT SMORES?

Here’s a few little suggestions to make your camping trip more paleo.

Camping Food

For backpacking, campfires often aren’t allowed.  If you’re using a camp stove but sad about the very non gut friendly foods available at your local camp store, try ordering some of these.  They are paleo freeze dried meals.

No guarantees that they taste good, but its better than the alternative!  Find them here. 

For long hikes when you need a snack, there are tons of great options.  I like dried fruit from my FAVE Steve’s Paleo Goods (find out more here) or even paleo trail mix.  Yep, it exists.   And this one’s NUT FREE!!!  Find it here. 

I also like this tuna jerky for something different.

For smores I get creative.  You can make your own paleo graham crackers and marshmallows.

But honestly, I just like to get down with an awesome chocolate bar from Enjoy Life (find them here) sometimes paired with these yummy cinnamon maple graham crackery things (find them here).  

Stay Hydrated

Don’t forget to stay hydrated while you’re spending lots of time outside.  I like to make sure I do that BPA free.

Here’s a favorite bottle of mine.

Keep Those Allergies Under Control

Allergies can make things tough.  I like these allergina drops.  Find the one for your zone and they can help reduce allergy symptoms.

I also like D-hist.  It is not an anti-histamine but does the job similarly to one.  I use this product a lot. You can find it here. 

That’s all for now!  Enjoy the camping trip and remember that many of the health and wellness benefits of camping come from the relaxation and reduced restriction and anxiety of modern life.  So if you want to fudge a little and eat something you don’t normally eat, let it go!  Enjoy the moment.  Times like these don’t come around often enough.