When it comes to health and almost everything else I am a huge fan of simplicity. Einstein said, “If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough." Getting healthy, mentally and physically doesn't have to be complicated. A patient reported to me the other day, that she gets the deepest most restorative sleep while on camping trips. While at home however it is usually light and restless. She also made me aware of a small study where camping completely normalized circadian rhythms in a group of people in only a week. This is a great example of how simple getting healthy can be. It’s amazing how being in nature can just make us feel good and it’s weird to think that we now live in white boxes, that are mainly devoid of natural sunlight and fresh air and that our bare feet hardly ever touch the ground. We literally and figuratively almost never connect with the earth.
Hippocrates the father of modern medicine recognized this when he said “Nature is the physician of diseases.” Teddy Roosevelt also knew the power that nature has to heal. On the Valentine’s Day 1884, both his mother and wife died hours apart. The grieving politician left his political career and headed West to hunt and ranch for two years. Being in untamed country helped heal his mental wounds and he, with John Muir, became a driving force for creating the National Park system. John Muir believed in nature’s healing powers with absolute certainty. In one of his books he advised “Keep close to Nature's heart... and break clear away, once in a while. Climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods. Wash your spirit clean.”
Scientific studies have also documented what Hippocrates, Teddy Roosevelt and John Muir intuited. Earthing or grounding is the practice of purposefully walking or lying barefoot on the ground. Scientists have found that the earth gives off negative ions that can help decrease inflammation in the body and reduce blood pressure. I routinely tell patients to walk or lie in their backyard barefoot for a half hour a day. It sounds too easy but it really does help with a myriad of issues.
I am a city dweller and when I first moved to St. Paul I was surprised to find that there are plenty of places to find nature very close to home. Harriet Island or any of the other great parks in the city are a great place to start. The Mississippi River is also an amazing, uncrowded ecosystem to escape to. Gardening in the backyard is also a good option where you can get on the ground and get dirty without leaving home.
With kids it’s great to see how fast getting them outside can change their mood. Generally with my four year old the first go-to if it’s a rough day is to get outside and move until he’s worn out. The same goes for myself. I strongly believe that movement in nature is a basic requirement for health. If I’m having a depressing or lethargic day, the first thing I do to reset is to go exercise outside. There is a great quote from the classic book Moby Dick that I think about when I’m just blue or irritated for no reason. It goes:
“Whenever I find myself growing grim about the mouth; whenever it is a damp, drizzly November in my soul; whenever I find myself involuntarily pausing before coffin warehouses, and bringing up the rear of every funeral I meet; and especially whenever my hypos get such an upper hand of me, that it requires a strong moral principle to prevent me from deliberately stepping into the street, and methodically knocking people's hats off - then, I account it high time to get to sea as soon as I can.”
I think most of us have felt that “damp, drizzly November in my soul” feeling and getting back into wild and untamed nature is oftentimes the cure. In chiropractic, we call the healing power of nature “innate intelligence.” Innate intelligence is the inborn wisdom of the body to heal itself when there isn’t outside interference. One thing I love about chiropractic is that it can be summed up very simply. When we take away outside interference, be it physical, mental, environmental or nutritional the body will naturally heal using its inborn wisdom. Nature is one way to remove a great deal of interference and should a be a regular part of everyone's daily health routine.