Downshifting Your Central Nervous System
Many moons ago, when I was living in New York and active, oh-so-active in my addictions, I visited my first psychic. I don’t remember much about the meeting, since I was stoned out of my head in an attempt to make more profound the process—my general modus operandi for drug usage. However I do remember her advice: “Get around green. There is no greenery in your life. You need it.” I had zero idea what she was talking about. In response to her feedback, I might have bought a green sweater. Even though I had no clue of her message, nevertheless her words have lingered with me over these years.
Decades later, I have been blessed to live in a place, perhaps by chance/perhaps not by chance, that is natural. Out the door there are dirt roads, a lake, wetlands, squirrels and bunnies (to Zacy’s delight), birds of all sorts, and the like. It’s certainly not always green here, yet the seasons are stunning and inviting and so deeply touching.
As I was flipping through an issue of National Geographic (Jan., 2016), I stumbled upon a really interesting article about the power of nature to calm and heal us. Science eventually validates and legitimizes the psychic! Check out these numbers:
- A 15 minute walk in nature can cause measurable changes in physiology—
- 16% drop in cortisol
- 2% drop in blood pressure
- 4% drop in heart rate
- Up to 50% increase in creativity
- Our prefrontal cortex, the command center, like an overused muscle, can dial down and relax with 15 minutes of time spent in nature, says Dr. David Strayer from the University of Utah.
- Evidence of powerful physiological benefits from nature is emerging from the movement in Japan called shinrinyoku, or forest bathing, the medicine of being in the forest.
Zac, my dear dog, keeps me in the medicine. Left to my own devices, I would probably lean more toward the gym and less toward the lake. But Zac is a guy who expects his walks. Together, pretty much no matter the weather (okay, not last weekend at -22 degrees), we are out there. It is so good for me. It is not without its struggle or its efforting, yet in the morning, walking to the lake frames my day. In the evening, it cools the flames of the day that I’m attempting to release. Being in nature returns me to a perspective more substantial and reliable than my own. As it quiets my mind, my heart opens to possibilities bigger than my own limited expectations.
I believe these words of Alberto Villoldo, Ph.D., psychologist, medical anthropologist, author, and shaman when he says:
“When we realign ourselves with nature and come back into balance, our natural health with return.”
What about you? Do you get outside enough? Consider downloading more stress by simply being out and upon our blessed earth. It doesn’t have to be hard. Just give yourself the gift of getting there. The natural world will meet you, to do the rest.