Nature Connection as Medicine
photo by Ru Wharton @ The School of Lost Borders
In 1982 Tomohide Akiyama coined the term “Shinrin-Yoku” which translates into English as “Forest Bathing”. This practice involves a mindful experience in nature that engages the senses and encourages a drop into the parasympathetic nervous system. Through this drop in nervous system activity, we experience the healing benefits of nature on a cellular level.
According to a study done by the Center for the Environment, Health, and Field Sciences in Chiba, Japan from 2005-2006, this practice is proven to provide a 12 percent decrease in cortisol levels, 7 percent decrease in sympathetic nervous system activity, 6 percent decrease in heart rate, and a 1.4 percent decrease in blood pressure*. It is proven to boost anti-cancer cell production (NK cells), improve mental restoration, creativity, and boost social connectivity. Time in nature is also able to help with behavior and impulse control, and high-order cognitive skills. These powerful boosts in health happen through the exchange of breathing in phytoncide from coniferous evergreen trees such as Hemlock, Pine, Spruce, Fir, and Cedar.
Phytoncide are a compound released by these trees that helps boost their immunity when they detect a threat. These phytoncide compounds have been found to have a beneficial effect on the immune system and regenerative capacity of human cells as well when inhaled. Research has also proven that simply a picture of nature can have regenerative effects on cognition and calming effects to the nervous system. The importance of building a healthy earth-human relationship relates to both our relationship with the land, and our mental health.
According to a recent study done in 2018 by the Environmental Protection Agency, the average adult spends 90% of their life indoors and 11 hours a day on a screen , and youth are not far behind at 7.5 hours per day** In addition, screen time is linked to higher risk of sleep disorders, mental illness, and death.
The current environmental discourse that has shaped our Earth-human relationship for generations has created an identity of the individual separate from the natural world and each other. We have validated a relationship to place that functions under extraction and manipulation of the land rather than reciprocity and partnership. We have validated the death and destruction of land and people for the sake of the commodification of wildlife and plants, and labor, and this has led to both our environmental and social justice movement of the 21st century, and our current climate crisis.
The Rusty Anvil focuses on nature connection as a means of self-discovery, healing, and cultural transformation. By building an intimate relationship with the natural word we can begin to find our true selves and become conscious environmental stewards and agents of change. When we build a supportive outdoor community that drives intimacy with nature, environmental action, and models sustainable lifestyles we can begin to empower our communities to do the same. We awaken and begin to make change from the individual level which will drive the change. We must each reevaluate the subconscious ways in which we have been manipulated to extract and divide ourselves from the natural world. Then we can truly begin to resist the oppressive forces that have manipulated our Earth-human relationship and come together in reciprocal relationship with both our human and more-than-human communities.
Join me for a day on the land to connect with our more-than-human siblings and rebuild our relationship to place within ourselves, and the natural world. Together we can become conscious environmental stewards that drive change within our communities.