How natural landscapes can enrich your health and happiness
Consider immersing yourself in Canada’s natural elements to cultivate balance
This article was originally published February 23rd, 2017.
Canada has no shortage of natural gifts. We have the northern lights, lakes, forests, waterfalls, plains, mountains valleys and oceans to explore. We have access to open sky, city parks and national parks. We have four beautiful seasons and we have space, wide open space. And aside from the beauty they offer, there are compelling reasons to make enjoying them a part of our lives.
Modern science and ancient sciences like yoga, Ayurveda and traditional Chinese medicine, point to the benefits of returning to nature and the impact that the natural elements have on our mood, emotions and overall health and well-being.
Natural landscapes and elemental spaces are charged with oxygen atoms known as negative ions that energize your body, boost your immunity and benefit your mood. A recent study recognized that the negative ions found in nature decreased depression. Negative ions are generated by moving water, sunlight, air and earth. When we are immersed in the natural elements, our bodies become charged with negative ions and we feel more connected and happy. Consider how you may feel when you spend time near the water, sit in the sunlight, or stroll in the park.
Professor John M. Zelensky of Carleton University and Associate Professor Elizabeth K.Nisbet of Trent University, found results indicating that "our connection to nature may be a path to human happiness and our relationship with nature is a significant and distinct predictor of many happiness indicators." Numerous positive psychological and physiological health benefits were also found in a study on nature therapy and the traditional Japanese practice of nature immersion, known as Forest Bathing or Shinrin-Yoku (SY). The findings indicated that "individuals who interacted with green spaces reported to be more energetic, in good overall health and, have more of a sense of meaningful purpose in life." We are a part of nature. When we balance the elements around us and invite in more natural space, it can facilitate mental clarity and the feeling of inner spaciousness that is calming, healthy and rejuvenative. Being in nature helps us to concentrate and use our natural senses to navigate through the wilderness, amplifying our innate instincts and awakening our cognitive ability.
All of this may provide a balance to some of the less ideal implications of being indoors, surrounded by appliances, wifi, working on computers, using cell phones and other electronic equipment. Electronic devices produce an electromagnetic field (EMF) that may have adverse effects on health including, "sleep disturbances, headaches, depressive symptoms, attention dysfunction, increased body weight, anxiety, nausea, skin tingling and EEG changes." The World Health Organization (WHO) and the ICNIRP have established a program to review the health risks of EMF exposure over time. All the better to power down, unplug and digital detox from time to time.
If you can't immerse yourself in nature, or not as often as you might like, perhaps create elemental or small green spaces in your home and at work. Unplug devices when they are not in use. You can also visit the arboretum, bike or walk to work, take a walking work break or purchase a decorative terrarium for your work space. Here are some other ways to bring the elements back into your life, whether you are at home or in the great outdoors.
Fire: Sitting in the sunlight, candles in the home, lighting a fireplace or outdoor winter campfire.
Earth: Decorative natural stones, indoor plants, green spaces, decorative terrariums, walking through the forest or in parks.
Water: A warm shower, a salt bath, a small in-home waterfall, a vapour diffuser filled with your favourite essential oil, sitting by a river, lake or the ocean.
Space/Air: Walking through open land or city parks, observing the open sky, cracking open a window in your home to get fresh air circulating in your space.
On a day that feels like it's fresh and crisp but not unbearably cold, suit up in your winter gear and skate, ski, walk, make snow angels, toboggan or snowshoe. If you feel adventurous, you can always getaway in a cabin or experience glamping in a luxury yurt — if that's more your thing — to reconnect to nature and yourself.
Nature is our home, a haven for wildlife, a place that belongs to all of us. Let's make the most of it while we are here, let's actively create balance, uncover our happiness and preserve our health. It will sustain our nature, and we will all be better for it.
Nicole Mahabir is the Founder and Director of JAI Wellness, a platform for health education, mindful living and wellbeing. For the past 10 years, Nicole has lead professional certified programs, teaching Nutrition, Meditation, Ayurveda, Yoga Therapy and Natural Anti-Ageing Beauty Regimes.When she isn't teaching, Nicole creates integrated, sustainable health protocols for her busy clients and leads corporate and wellness retreats. Follow Nicole on Instagram @jaiwellness or on her website, jaiwellness.com