It's no surprise that a lot of people will spend less and less time outdoors as the days make their way to winter. How does all this indoor time affect our health? Not so well, I'm afraid, because our bodies need outdoor time. Let's look at some of the benefits of getting out (and this is also for all the people who are in offices – Brussels has a large number of parks, big and small, that are perfect for lunch time or break time strolls).
In good weather, it's easy to see the benefits of getting out – who doesn't want to spend some time in the sun? Sunshine is life. Sunshine is good for our body. Our body needs sunlight to produce vitamin D, a must for a healthy immune system. Vitamin D seems to be in the news everywhere these days as more and more health benefits are being attributed to it. And yes, you can get a supplement at the store, but make no mistake; your body better assimilates that which comes from nature.
And on those days when it's not so sunny?
There is an amazing amount of things that our bodies get from being outdoors. Being outdoors in nature often means you are walking, running, biking, or playing. The common denominator in all of these activities: physical movement. So you can build muscle, get your blood and lymph fluid circulating, increase bone density, improve flexibility and even ease your mind with some walking meditation, or whatever activity you like, all in beautiful surroundings, making the whole event more enjoyable.
A breath of fresh air and some negative ions
Indoor air, despite circulation, can get stuffy. Add to that all the off-gases that are produced from carpeting, furniture, compressed wood panels and flooring, synthetic perfumes and air fresheners, and your body is craving for some fresh air! Indoors, we have computers, air conditioners, heaters and all this pollution that basically makes the air unhealthy and removes the healthy negative ions.
Nature provides us with negative ions. Negative ions are atoms or molecules that have gained an electron and are created in nature by rain or waterfalls, lightning, trees, seashores and other natural sources. Negative ions are believed to increase levels of the chemical neurotransmitter serotonin and increase oxygen flow to the brain. Benefits include better brain function, alleviated depression, stress relief, better breathing and sleep, and increased energy levels in the body. This is why waterfalls have a calming effect on people and why a walk in the forest can be much more than exercise.
Even sitting on a park bench has its benefits!
Look around you in nature and you'll see and hear healing energies all around. The myriad of colors from plants, flowers, animals, trees all affect your body. Colors are different wavelengths of light and each has its unique effect on your physiology. Chromotherapy is color therapy, a way to heal with color. Colors affect our moods and energy levels. With chromotherapy, colors can be considered as medicines for the body, soul and spirit. So with that in mind, know that green is considered the color of love, balance and healing, among other things.
Sounds of nature are proven stress reducers.
Birds chirping, water running down a creek, waterfalls – they all affect stress levels. According to Sound Therapy pioneer Dr. Tomatis, the ear is intended to hear mainly high frequency sounds, because most of the sensory cells in the inner ear are accumulated in the high frequency zone. These sounds replenish the brain's energy and activate the cortex, improving our ability to think. Most of the sounds in cities, such as traffic, computers, etc., are low frequency sounds which drain the brain of energy and cause stress. The high frequency sounds of nature - bird songs, wind and running water, stimulate the ear in a way that helps the nervous system function more efficiently, reducing stress and increasing energy levels.
So the next time it rains, grab your hat, coat and whatever else you need to get out and get yourself some well-being in nature. Even the sound of rain has healing benefits! And don't worry; if you are in Belgium, you won't have to wait long for the next occasion to arrive!
Nuket is a coach and health consultant with a holistic approach to living a healthy and fulfilling life. She lives in Brussels and works with individuals and companies, supporting them in making positive changes to create lifestyles and environments that are more balanced and healthy.
This article was originally published in the October 2011 edition of the Sunbeams Newsletter.