The Real Dirt on Dirt and Why You Need It

Have you held dirt in your hand for 20 minutes today? Did you know that simple act increases your happiness, chemically? When did you last feel the support of your back against a tree? Stopped and spent at least 10 full minutes watching one wild animal?

It’s exciting to see that the health benefits of nature, which we have always known intuitively, are getting a lot of attention in the press lately! Read on to find out what’s new in science and the healing nature of… nature!

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Did you know that studies show that positive immune benefits can last up to a month after spending time in the woods?

In 1982, Japan launched a national health program of shinrin yoku. Shinrin Yoku means forest bathing or spending more time in the forest with trees. No jogging or workouts, just quiet contemplation and connection. Japan has been studying the physical and psychological benefits of forest bathing since that time. It is not just about fresh air, the trees emit oils as a protection against insects and germs. These oils, called phytoncides, help our immune systems. They also found that being in a forest lowers our heart rate and our blood pressure. It also lowers your cortisol level, which is the stress hormone, lowering stress. That is huge. We know stress is a core cause and aggravator of many illnesses and lack of energy and joy. Being in nature is scientifically found to reduce depression, feelings of fear and anger, to boost energy, and even to accelerate recovery from surgery. Companies are adding “forest therapy” to their health plans in Asia and Europe. The Washington Post compares forest bathing for health to where yoga was 30 years ago.

One of the most significant findings to me is that scientists have found that spending time in nature increases the count of our bodies' “natural killer” or NK cells, which fight viruses and cancer, and stay active in our bodies for 30 days after being in the forest. What would happen if each of us dedicated ourselves to spending time in the forest at least once a month?

Being in nature is also gaining medical evidence that it helps significantly with ADD/ADHD symptoms. Allergies? Science magazine writes that the great outdoors is GOOD for allergies!

And from the head to the heart, let’s look at how nature changes the way we feel. Close your eyes and look back on a few of your happiest moments. Vacations, romantic times, road trips, times you felt your most creative or most free and wild self. How many memories involve nature? A beautiful natural view? A beach or lake or rainbow? Feeling the vastness of somewhere magical and wild? Feeling your senses heighten from sun on your face or rain?

What if this is a two way relationship? It is so easy with all this evidence to look towards dedicating ourselves to this healthy cause because it offers us so much.  What will happen if we take this information & move forward with integrity. Bit by bit becoming more familiar with, and caring more for the natural world we are simply a part of?

What if intentionally feeling grateful and appreciative of the forest and it’s creatures makes a difference to nature itself?  What if forming a relationship of reciprocity with nature makes a change both for me and for the natural world? What if our relationship with the natural world must be one of reciprocity if it is to remain able to heal anyone or anything? It makes sense, don’t you think?

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