Did you know, that compared to 1980, we cram in an extra 4.4 hours per day of information consumption outside of work? Our brain is actually wired to seek information and we, as a society, has become addicted to the screen, with the lure of instant screen-based information being over-powering, just like the lure of the donuts sitting in the break room. For many, perusing the information highway on your smart phone or computer, displaces health-promoting activities – exercise, meaningful social interaction, healthy eating, or even getting appropriate amounts of sleep—is causing you and your body to be more stressed and often sick.1
The good news is that you can counteract these negative effects by getting out in nature, the very place you are staying away from because your head is consumed by screen time. Twenty minutes in nature—gardening, walking, or resting while lying on the ground— is all it takes to access the benefits. But it is even better to get away to nature, where you do not bring your mobile phone or computer, nor do you need to watch television. Instead, you immerse yourself and all your senses in the experience of truly being away from the stress in your life and enjoying the wonders and health benefits of nature instead, like being exposed to phytoncides—chemicals that stimulate or relax your brain and may even benefit your immune system as they lower your stress response. When you are outside, exposed to the beauty of nature, it’s variability, it’s smells and sounds, the brain automatically shifts into a positive mental state, as does the body.
Though you can certainly take breaks out of your day to spend time in nature, which will be of great benefit to you and your health, I find that there is nothing as healing and restorative as getting away and spending a few days relaxing and restoring in a beautiful nature setting.
When is the last time you “unplugged” from the world and allowed yourself to be in the present moment, in appreciation of the beauty around you, and did so for an extended period of time. You can imagine, simply by my description, that your stress levels would be non-existent and your body restored to relaxation and health after a few days of this. Being plugged in constantly is extremely damaging to your well-being as the stress response is on active all of the time.
When you take mindfulness out into nature, you have the added benefit of accessing nature’s healing gifts, which add to improved wellbeing. Some experimental studies, for instance, have shown that phytoncides produced by trees can lower the production of cortisol, a stress hormone, lower anxiety and improve blood pressure.2 How do you these phytoncides get access to your body? Through your nasal passages. You smell them! These studies show that the health benefits this confers lasts months, not just days.
Aside from the myriad of health benefits spending time in nature offers you, I also feel simply getting away from the routine and unhealthy habits of your life can give you the kick start you need to get back on the road to healthy and happy. It’s true for me as well, as even though I lead a generally healthy life, I can also spend too much time on the screen, working or staying connected, which really brings my mood down overtime and keeps me from sleeping. Getting away, relaxing, with dear friends or family or even alone, and spending time being in nature, meditating, eating health and sleeping deeply always gets me rested, renewed and back on track.
If you are not very self-motivated to create a get-away nature vacation or retreat for yourself, I highly recommended signing up for an organized wellness retreat, where you can gain new skills in meditation or mindfulness, hike trails or do yoga, meet wonderful people, sleep luxuriously, eat healthy food, and work with experts who can take care of your needs and questions.
Compelled? check out the wonderful wellness retreats at the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise and if you want to join me there, I will be teaching April, October and December of 2017. Would love you to join me. Check it out here!
- Misra S, Stokols D. Psychological and health outcomes of perceived information overload. Environ Behav 2012 In Press.
- Kawakami, K., Kawamoto, M., Nomura, M., Otani, H., Nabika, T., Gonda, T. Effects of phytoncides on blood pressure under restraint stress in SHRSP. Clinical and Experimental Pharmacology and Physiology, December 2004, Suppl 2: S27-8.