Nature. More than just beautiful scenery, did you know that spending time in our natural environments can actually HEAL our bodies and NOURISH our minds? When we immerse ourselves in nature, we absorb negative ions. Ironically enough negative ions are positive (for us) and positives ions are actually negative. Negative ions increase levels of serotonin alleviating stress, reducing depression, and so much more! If this wasn’t enough, when we spend time in nature our brainwave frequencies actually shift from anxiety to relaxation. In fact, time in nature is so revered that the Japanese government has allowed time off as well as a dedicated budget to the concept of shinrin-yoku or forest bathing. So what’s really happening here and how can we capitalize upon these affects?
I was raised on a banana farm. Growing up, my family owned and operated a banana farm in Waimanalo, on Oahu island. While my immediate family lived on Maui, my brother and I would spend summers with grandparents on Oahu. So every Friday for 3 wonths, we’d head out in our grandparents 1967 ‘puke’ green Dodge Dart. As a child, running around the banana farm was amazing. I’d feel so uplifted every time we’d pull into the farm gates and excited to explore the great unknown. Little did I know that I’d be setting myself up for future investigations of the positive affects nature had on me.
As mentioned above, there are a myriad of affects nature has upon our mind, body, and spirit. Concerning our body, nature is ripe with negative ions. Think of ions electrical charges that affect our molecules. These molecules, when negatively charged, has a positive effect upon our physiology. As mentioned above negative ions increase serotonin within our body. With this increase in serotonin circulating in our bodies, our mood is elevated as we experience elation, ease, and grace for an acute period of time.
In addition to physical benefits, our mental state can also be greatly affected by spending time in nature. The majority of our days are spent thinking, analyzing, rationalizing, and in the state of reasoning. All these qualities and traits are specific to the left hemisphere of our brain. Much like our muscular system, when we do not use a certain part of our brain, it begins to ‘atrophy’. Our right hemisphere - in charge of imagination, creativity, and expression - can become incoherence with disuse. What does this mean for minding our bodies? Stress - plain and simple.
Yet when we go out into nature, our brainwave frequencies actually shift. We redirect energy from my our hemisphere into our right. This allows our mind to become more coherent and our bodies to enter into place of ease and rest. when our mind coheres, we are capable of a great many things: leadership, education, reflection, overall efficacy in our lives.
This is where ‘āina-based education programs, eco-tours, and nature retreats can come into play for local, ecological economies. For an island state lake let you, opportunities are tremendous. We can revitalize our local economies, revamp our educational systems, and create passage for communities to truly thrive.