The healing power of nature

Nature 2At the start of the 20th century cancer was absent in many populations in the world. According to John Ratey and Richard Manning, in their recent book, Go Wild: Free Your Body from the Afflictions of Civilization, cancer among Native Americans was extremely rate. Fiji, with a population of 120,000 native people yielded only two deaths from cancer while cancer deaths were common in cities like New York. The authors claim diseases increased as people adopted Western diets and lifestyle.

Some people argue that thanks to advances in medicine and medical procedures we are living longer; but are we living healthier? In many cases we are simply taking longer to die. Diseases such as cancer and Type 2 diabetes are affecting children as well, so we can’t blame poor health on longevity. Type 2 diabetes results from eating sugar and refined carbohydrates.

In their book, authors Ratey and Manning list the top 12 risk factors for death and debilitation worldwide. In order, they are high blood pressure, smoking, alcohol, household air pollution, low fruit consumption, obesity, high blood sugar, low body weight, outside air pollution, inactivity, high salt intake and low nut and seed consumption. For the most part these are self-inflicted factors resulting in what the authors refer to as diseases of civilization.

Researchers have noticed a link between nature and healing for some time now. For example, patients in hospital rooms with a window view require less pain medication and spend less time in the hospital. Even staring at pictures of outdoor scenes has been linked to pain relief, stress recovery and mood improvement, according to a brief article in the January/February, 2015 issue of Scientific American Mind.

Scientists have determined that exposure to nature contributes to your wellbeing, reduces blood pressure, heart rate, muscle tension and the production of stress hormones.

Hundreds of years ago our environment consisted mainly of fields, trees, plants and water as opposed to the steel, concrete and pavement of today’s cities and the boxed-in offices of the business world.

We can’t all revert to hunting, fishing, and farming in order to regain a connection with nature. But we can get outdoors as much as possible; cultivate plants on our balconies or in flower pots and use nature scenes in picture hangings and as computer screen savers. We could walk in parks, go on camping trips or take a drive in the country.

There are examples on the University of Minnesota’s website of people who eased depression, decreased blood pressure, lost weight, increased energy and improved mood through interacting with nature in various ways.

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