Summer Wellness: Nature Edition
Summer is upon us and it is finally feeling like summertime here in Denver after a rainy Spring! On the blog in the next few weeks will be the Summer Wellness series that will include nature and how it can improve your health, summertime travel tips to stay healthy, festive healthy recipes, the importance of hydration and getting back on track after vacation. First up: Summer Wellness – the Nature Edition!
Health Benefits of Nature
It is no secret that nature holds immense healing properties and there is science to support this. A 2019 study looking at 20,000 people, showed that those who spent 2 hours per week outside in green spaces were more likely to report good health and psychological well-being than those who did not. Other studies have shown that just 10-20 minutes per day leads to improved feelings of happiness and well-being and decreased stress.
There are thousands of other studies looking at the health benefits of nature and it seems to be the direct antidote to the chronic stress of the world today. Time in nature has shown to: lower blood pressure, decrease stress hormone levels and nervous system arousal, improve immune system function, increase self-esteem and mood and reduce anxiety. Sounds like if nature was a pill, it would be the best selling drug on the market!
The Japanese have been onto this for decades. Coining time in nature as “forest bathing” which is immersing oneself and the senses in nature and soaking in the sights, scents and sounds of nature. They believe that part of the benefits of being in nature is physically interacting with nature. For example, they suspect that inhaling certain aerosols from plants and trees increases levels of Natural Killer cells which are crucial in the immune response. So, get outside! Turn off your phone, take some deep breaths and take in the sights, sounds and scents around you and you just might feel better, physically and mentally.
Grounding | Earthing
You may have seen this recently in the popular culture headlines but what exactly is “earthing” also called “grounding?” This practice comes from the idea that with modern life we are separated from the earth where in the past our ancestors spent more time physically connected to the earth – walking barefoot and sitting and sleeping on the ground which purportedly has numerous health benefits. The idea is that electrons from the Earth are drawn into the body to neutralize free radicals. A group of researchers claim many health benefits from decreased pain to improved circulation and mood to decreased inflammation by walking barefoot outside or via grounding devices that have been created to link the body to the earth, such as mats that can be used while sleeping. While fascinating at first glance, there have only been a handful of small studies to suggest there might be improved health with grounding (These studies have used grounding devices rather than actually walking barefoot). It is interesting and I could see how connecting with nature being outside and taking in the sights and sounds (as mentioned above) is beneficial for health but I’d like to see more data on earthing or grounding before I get too excited at the thought of being barefoot curing disease. Nonetheless, it is a harmless intervention (unless it is freezing out) and I do believe in the power of being in and connecting to nature.
With nature comes…pesky creatures.
With summer upon us and more time spent outside (and our travel to the Midwest), I’ve had the creepy, crawly critters on my mind. I’ve heard from family and friends that both the mosquitos and ticks are particularly bad this year from the wet, rainy spring. Not ideal but we are going to try not to let these critters stop us from enjoying the outdoor activities we have planned this summer, we are just going to be smart about it! Here are a few tips for mosquito and tick season:
- Wear pants, long sleeves, socks and closed toed shoes when spending time outdoors especially after dusk when mosquitos are most active. This limits skin exposure for ticks and mosquitos to latch onto.
- Avoid walking through tall grasses and stay on trails, if possible and keep lawns mowed to reduce the chance of ticks hanging around. Keep standing water away from your home so mosquitos don’t have a place to multiply.
- Use bug repellent, like Primally Pure’s Nature Spray, which is an all natural blend of essential oils to deter mosquitos and ticks. If the mosquitos are bad or when we will be up North camping we may rely on stronger bug repellants to keep both the mosquitos and ticks away, depending on the density and our activities. One tip if using chemical bug repellents, is to try to stay covered and try to spray clothes only and shower before bed so it is on the skin for as little time as possible.
- If you will be in a lyme heavy area and spending lots of time outside, consider treating clothing, tents, sleep bags with permethrin to deter the ticks.
- Check for ticks when coming from outdoors. Make sure to check places like: clothing lines, groin, armpits, hairlines, behind the ears and belly button- all the nooks and crannies. Keep in mind that nymph ticks can be the size of a poppy seed! It is crucial to remove a tick as early as possible to limit transmission of diseases like lyme and other co-infections. If a tick is found, remove it with tweezers by placing the tweezers as close to the skin as possible and pinch off the mouth of the tick, gently pull and wait for the tick to release. Do not use a flame such as a lighter or chemical! Save the tick and send it in to have it tested for lyme disease and other co-infections so that the proper treatment can be initiated if possible (tickcheck.com or ticksafety.com). Watch the site for the classic bullseye rash (keep in mind this is absent in 20-30% of lyme cases!) and keep an eye out for other symptoms such as fever, joint pain, muscle pain, fatigue and headaches which might indicate infection.
- For Mosquito bites, a few ways to stop the itch can include: applying Witch Hazel to bites, cool white or chamomile tea bags applied to bites, or a colloidal oatmeal bath if you’ve got a lot of bites that are causing you to be itchy and miserable!
And don’t forget about sun protection. For more on sun protection and my favorite sun protection products here! I hope you have enjoyed this post of the Summer Wellness series and take some time to enjoy nature!