Wednesday, March 3, 2021

Walking to Detox the Body and the Mind


I want to spend just a few minutes talking about a concept that we generally take for granted, and often do not fully understand the benefits obtained from being outside. Specifically, I am referring to walking in a natural setting. I can prove this concept to you in a few seconds and you will be amazed at this. What I want you to do, if possible, right now, go outside and sit in a comfortable chair and just relax. Make a mental note of how you feel now, inside, and then go out and sit or stand and make a really strong effort at looking within and asking yourself how you feel now, that you are outside. You will notice a much more calm mental state outside and when you come back in there is more turmoil in your mind.

A great way to relax and immediately get out from under the stress you may be experiencing is to go outside and take a nature walk. For some of us this is easy. We can drive to a nearby location and walk. For others, it may be more difficult. The city may not offer a relaxing natural setting. The best results are obtained when you get as far away from people and buildings and city noise.

When you are outside it is very important to notice your surroundings in great detail. Don’t walk and think about your problems. Look at the ground, the trees, the shrubs, and anything you come across. Stop and smell the roses. You will be very surprised what this will do for you.

The results of studies that measure walking in nature vs the city are quite surprising. In one study, groups of university students were taken on walks through a forest and the city. Saliva samples taken from the participants before and after each of the walks demonstrated that the experience of walking through the forest reduced the participants’ levels of cortisol, the body’s stress hormone, to a greater extent than did the city walk. These results were reflected in a study where researchers looked at EEG readings of participants as they walked through a shopping district, a leafy green area, and then a busy commercial site. The brain activity recorded on this walk demonstrated

a reduction in tension and stress as the participants entered into the natural area, coupled with increased levels of calm and relaxation. Thus, by intentionally getting exposure to nature during their walk, the participants had lower levels of stress, both physical and mental, than they experienced by walking through more developed areas.

Nature walks can have a beneficial affect on our moods and memory. One researcher discovered that students with moderate to severe depression demonstrated a significant increase in both mood and short-term memory after a walk through a natural setting, as compared to a walk through the city.

Children with ADHD, when comparing a walk through a park to walks of equal length through a neighborhood and an urban setting, had the greatest success in improving the attention span of the children on frustrating tasks. People who spend time walking in natural settings and cut off their access to technology demonstrated an improvement in their creativity and problem solving abilities. A very detailed Japanese study with 280 individuals showed that when they surrounded themselves with natural beauty their immune system was greatly enhanced.

One of the first and most well-known studies on this subject, published in Science by Richard S. Ulrich in 1984, found that patients recovering from surgery in rooms with a window facing a natural setting had shorter hospital stays and took less pain medicine than did patients whose window faced a brick wall.

Another study in Japan involved researchers investigating the physiological effects of shinrin-yoku—“forest bathing,” or, to put it plainly, taking walks in the woods. Qing Li, a professor in the Department of Hygiene and Public Health at Nippon Medical School, Tokyo, has been involved with several such studies. He and his colleagues recently measured specific physiological markers before and after study subjects took walks in a forest and in an urban control environment. The study’s sample size is small, 16 male subjects and the timescale short. The effects were measured after one day trip to the forest and one to the city. The results suggest that the forest trip had positive effects

on health. Subjects’ blood pressure measured in the forest was significantly lower when compared to measurements taken in the city. Levels of the stress hormone noradrenaline, measured in urine, were also significantly lower after the forest walk than after the urban walk. And blood levels of the adrenal hormone dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate (DHEA- S) and of adiponectin, a hormone secreted by fat tissue, were higher after the forest walk but not the urban walk. The authors note that DHEA-S may contribute to heart health, among other benefits, and that lower levels of adiponectin are associated with obesity and type 2 diabetes.

One of the greatest benefits to being outside is how it can eliminate brain fog. It is so common now to be at work or at home and have to solve some problem and not be able to think clearly, due to your brain being over loaded with stimulation and stress. Just a minute of walking outside and looking closely at your surroundings will clear your mind.

I encourage everyone to spend a few minutes each day walking outside and enjoying the natural surroundings. Some even believe that trees, water, shrubs, grass and other earthy elements can actually absorb our negative energy.

Children love the outdoors. If your kids are out of control, take them outside. I guarantee they will settle down. And children love to fish. Take them fishing for the day and you will be amazed at how this simple act will permanently change their personality for the better.

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