We’ve banned plastic bags, bought our reusable water bottles, and become expert thrift shoppers. We’ve learned that small changes in our lifestyle can have mighty impacts on the environment. But did you know that contributing to the health of the planet will not only keep our planet livable, but also keep us healthy?

Your Brain on Nature

A group of researchers at Stanford University found in a study that taking a walk in nature decreases negative rumination. That means it reduces stress and anxiety, two things that contribute to depression.

Being in nature is not only good for our mental health. David Strayer, cognitive psychologist at the University of Utah, has found positive effects in “everything from stress hormones to heart rate to brain waves to protein markers” in his studies of people in nature. Some call this concept of reconnecting with our natural environment, “grounding” or “earthing”.

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A Tradition of Nature Healing

This isn’t news. Famous authors have been writing about how nature makes them feel better for a long time. That’s why we have national parks and green spaces like Central Park in New York City. But before those lands were determined as ‘special’, indigenous communities recognized the importance of land and natural environments to holistic healing.

Our friend and nature healer, Wanda Knapik, spoke at a recent Slow Living Retreat on the healing power of nature, and advocates about the important relationship humans have with natural surroundings. We have large impacts on the environment with how we use it, and in turn nature impacts us and our health. 

For instance, when we use toxic chemicals in farming practices, we are contaminating the earth’s soil. Wanda sees it like this,

Soil is an organ within the Earth organism. It is similar in function to the diaphragm within the human organism, enabling the Earth to breathe, just as the diaphragm enables humans to breathe. Plants and trees are the lungs of the Earth, the soil is the diaphragm.

So when we’re not taking care of the soil, we’re harming not only the planet--but ourselves as well.

Your Choices Make a Difference

If you’re not a farmer, there are plenty of other ways to contribute to the planet’s  soil health. Refusing  to support the agrochemical industry by buying organic food and clothing that's made from organic fabrics is a powerful choice for the consumer. Avoid using weed and pest killers in your garden or around your home as well. These substances destroy the microorganisms that we need to continue living on this planet. Start composting your own food waste to regenerate the soil where you live. Also, make sure that your local and national representatives align with your values about the natural environment. 

The goal is to transform ourselves into instruments of change and love, and to serve all of humanity as well as the web of life and Mother Earth. We start by treating ourselves and others with respect, kindness, compassion, and love.