3 Surprising Benefits of Spending Time in Nature

In a busy world that is swirling with endless demands and constant distractions, do you ever find your mind and soul desperately longing for an undisturbed moment of peace and solitude? 

It’s no secret that screen and phone use are at an all-time high for children and adults alike. With immediate access to social media apps, games, and customized entertainment, this is how many of us “decompress” or try to manage our anxiety, depression, and overwhelm. 

Furthermore, most of us have to-do lists that are unreasonably long and we often feel guilty for taking any time off to take care of ourselves. This can cause us to be in an almost constant sympathetic (fight or flight) state putting us at risk for a myriad of health issues and diseases.  

All this connection is taking its toll and has increased our disconnect from nature. NOT spending time in the great outdoors can put us at risk for anxiety and depression and also cause vitamin deficiencies - especially Vitamin D

And while we know that it makes us feel good to get outside and go for a refreshing walk or enjoy the sunset, evidence is mounting that spending time in nature is truly healing for our body, mind, and spirit! 

In this blog article, we’ll explore the top 3 benefits of spending time in nature: 

  1. Better Cognition
  2. Improved Immunity 
  3. Enhanced Mental Health, Happiness, and Creativity 

Improved Immunity

Vitamin D is crucial for our heart, nerve, muscle, immune, and lung health and the lack of it can cause some serious health conditions! Vitamin D also helps to absorb minerals that our body needs like calcium and phosphorus. Anywhere from 50%-90% of Vitamin D is absorbed through the skin via sunlight. 

But it isn’t just the increase in Vitamin D that we get from being outside - our immune function is also improved by substances called phytoncides that plants put into the air. T cells (immune cells that help us to fight infection) are also energized by the sun! 

Spending time outside (especially in the morning) also helps to reset your circadian rhythm (sleep cycle). This is so important as sleep itself is very healing!  

Enhances Mental Health, Happiness, and Creativity

Spending just two hours a week in nature has been proven to decrease stress and increase happiness! This time can be spent over the course of the week, so taking a short walk outdoors several days a week will help you reap these benefits.  

Serotonin levels increase when you are outside, this helps to raise your energy levels, keeping you calm, focused, and positive. This also helps to boost your creativity, just getting out for some fresh air can nudge your brain to start thinking in a new pattern!   

8 Simple Ways to Spend More Time Outdoors

Here are a few tips to help you add some more nature to your life regardless of where you live:

  1. Read a book on your front porch or balcony or at a local park.
  2. Garden - whether it is just a few potted plants in a small space or participating in a community garden.
  3. Find a good place for watching the sunrise and sunset, even if you have to drive to see it.
  4. Have a picnic at your local park or greenspace.
  5. Go for a walk - there’s nothing like a little fresh air and exercise to help you replenish your soul!
  6. Check out a local farmer’s market.
  7. Give yourself a mission - count squirrels, find a certain type of flower, see if you can find any shooting stars, and journal about it!
  8. Fake it - decorate with plants and pictures of wildlife and scenery if you live in a climate that is so extreme you just can’t go outside that often! Even listening to rain sounds on an app can have a therapeutic effect.

For the history of humanity, people have spent more time outdoors than indoors… up until recently, and there’s no mistaking the negative consequences this can have on us as a society. 

So when you find yourself overwhelmed, stressed, down, or anxious then take a few minutes to just be outdoors in some capacity and soak up all of the peaceful beauty around you. You’ll thank yourself for improving your cognition, immune system, mental health, and creativity!

Is Stress the Root Cause of Your Weight Issues?

Are you stuck in a cycle of feeling chronically stressed? If so, you’re not alone- almost half of Canadians report being “really or seriously stressed” at least once a week and 16% report feeling really stressed every single day. These numbers are probably even higher now given the recent events happening in our world. 

We see stressed-out people regularly in our practice. When our clients fill out our “Root Cause Assessment” form, the ADRENAL SECTION is by far the most problematic area. 

When we’re under acute stress, our adrenal glands release a hormone called cortisol. This is a normal biological process, but when we are chronically stressed our body begins to show symptoms of excess cortisol. Some of these symptoms are shown in the picture below.

Chronic stress also changes our bodies over time. Many of our clients complain of weight gain around the abdomen - that stubborn belly fat that you just can't get rid of, this is a common result of being chronically stressed. 

One of the things that we really focus on with our clients is helping them get out of this stressed-out state. 

If this sounds familiar to you here are some things you can try to incorporate into your life. 

Goodbye Stress, Hello Calm:

1. Focus on Rest and Recovery and Prioritize Sleep: Hustling and living off of caffeine and little sleep is commonly glorified in our modern society. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that this is good for you or that you can get ahead by living this way. You can’t. 

In fact, the more you make it a priority to get 8 hours of quality sleep a night and take a break when you need it, the more productive you will be when it’s time for you to get things done!

2. Spend Time in Nature: Japanese culture has an exercise called shinrin-yoku which translates to “forest bathing”. The goal of this exercise is to simply enjoy spending time and nature and soak in the forest atmosphere around you. This is a proven way to reduce cortisol, lower heart rate and blood pressure, boost the immune system, and improve feelings of happiness and creativity. 

If you don’t have a forest near you you can get the same results by just going outside and breathing in the fresh air, soaking up the sun’s rays, and mindfully gazing at the sky or a beautiful flower. If you aren’t able to get outside, try to adorn your home with live plants, unique crystals, and salt rock lamps to bring nature into your living space. 

3. Deep Breathing/Meditation: Spend some uninterrupted time every day deep breathing and meditating. There are so many ways to do this and you can have fun finding ways that fit well with your schedule. Perhaps you can find a corner of your home that brings you joy and use that for your daily meditation spot. 

Go on YouTube and create a playlist of your favorite mediations and breathing exercises or find apps that you like so that when you have the time to meditate can start right away. Try both guided meditations and just meditating on your own in silence. It’s not about perfection, it’s about consistency. Even just 5 minutes a day can lower your stress levels!

4. Learn to Say “No!”: Stop saying yes to things you don’t want to do or don’t have time to do. Confidently saying no will give you more time to focus well on the things you are passionate about doing or must do for your growth and expansion. 

How can you do this? Anytime you are in a situation where you need to make a decision to say “yes” or “no”, PAUSE, BREATHE, and get into alignment and from that space make your decision. 

5. Simplify Your Life: Write a list of all the things that are making you feel stressed out. Go through it one by one and ask yourself how you can either get rid of the thing that is causing you stress, or change how you think about it. Remember nothing is going to change unless you change something. 

Other ways to simplify your life are to clean up your work and home space. Get rid of anything that doesn’t serve a purpose or bring you joy. 

What is your favorite way to reduce stress in your life? If you need some help getting out of a cycle of feeling chronically stressed, Schedule a Metabolic Discovery Call today.

7 Ways to Heal Faster While Taking Fewer Supplements

Over the years, I’ve witnessed countless times when patients say that they’ve been seeing a “Holistic” practitioner and they come in with a garbage full of “stuff”. True healing doesn’t take place in a garbage bag, it takes place as a result of insight, strategy, and wisdom. I hope this article gives you a moment of clarity to help you know that you are either on the right path towards your best self or if you need to carefully re-evaluate your strategy.

1. Get the right functional lab testing

First and foremost, getting the right functional testing helps you understand where you're starting points is, each person is going to be different based on an infinite number of variables. So whether your root cause is emotional, viral, chemical, or whatever it is, the right testing can help paint a picture of the road to healing ahead.

You might have nutrient deficiencies due to lifestyle choices, behaviors, environments that you've been exposed to, and because of that, you're not really aware of the fastest path to getting to the top. Yes, you can climb, but if you're going to climb a mountain, wouldn't you want to have a map that helps you navigate to the top and take the path of least resistance instead of the path of most resistance or blind faith?

2. Work with an experienced practitioner who takes a careful history

Supplements can help you move towards health faster, the thing is, by doing the right testing, you're able to know exactly which supplements you should take and which ones you shouldn't take. The idea behind testing is to identify exactly what tools and equipment you need on your journey but there are limitations to testing. This is where a careful history comes in.                                            

It’s not practical, affordable or possible to test everything, so you have to have a good thorough history. It's not just giving your history, but who is interpreting your history? Does that person have the empathy required? Do they have the experience your case needs? Have they worked with hundreds of people like yourself or in a similar situation to yourself? With experience comes wisdom, information isn't the answer. Empathy, experience, and wisdom move you closer to the answer. A good history will lower supplement burden by allowing the practitioner to have a much deeper understanding of what’s actually going on instead of guessing with your health.

  3. Change your habits

The third way to reduce supplement need is to change behaviors and/or environments. By going to bed on time, by waking up at a certain time, by moving throughout the day, getting the correct amount and frequency of sunlight exposure, spending time in nature, loving what you do for work, etc. These are factors that are going to lower your supplement needs, so keep them in mind. We don't want to give you supplements for lifestyle behaviors if that’s the case you’re essentially using supplements and herbs like you would be using a drug, not good!

4. Become more aware

Leverage your lab testing to identify what nutrient deficiencies you have and learn what foods provide that nutrition, and then ask yourself a really simple question, “are these foods part of my diet or were they part of my diet before I came down with this illness?”      

Chances are if all of the foods that contain the nutrients you're deficient in were deficient in your diet, then start incorporating those foods into your diet. If your diet is low in these foods, start eating them, but remember supplements can help you get there faster. If you do it with food alone, it will take longer to really fill in those known biochemical gaps that you have. Food is always the foundation but supplements can aid in faster recovery. If you seem to be eating the right foods but are still depleted, pay attention to the next tip.

5. Choose, chew, chill

Wanna pop fewer pills, make sure that you're thoroughly chewing and digesting your food. If you're deficient in nutrients, ask yourself, “where do those nutrients come from?” They come from your food, but not all the nutrients in your digestive system are properly absorbed because you have a certain efficiency of extraction and absorption.

The efficiency of your digestion versus another person's digestion is going to vary based on their microbiota, chewing patterns, food combining, organ health, how stressed they are when they eat, yeast, fungal parasitic overgrowths (which essentially eat the food first). This is an individual variable that needs to be accounted for if your goal is to lower supplement needs and get healthy as quickly as possible.

As discussed in step one, the right functional lab testing can help you identify these free-loading bugs and any factors lowering your efficiency of digestion.

6. The Bioenergetics of food

Not everything can be supplemented or put into a pill, therefore it needs to be consumed in the diet. It's not just about the things that we can measure in lab work. It's also about the things that we can't measure in lab work, and stuff that's not going to show up on your food label like the phytochemical content of food, the polyphenol content of food, the antioxidant content of food.

The spiritual and energetic signature of that food is going to vary as well. I argue that if somebody is eating a certain type of food, the energy that went into producing that food leaves an energetic signature on it. For example, if you're eating animal products and the animal was suffering significantly during its lifetime, it's going to release stress hormones, and it's going to leave a certain emotional, spiritual and energetic signature versus an animal who's treated differently and an animal that's slaughtered humanely.

If your food is grown, let's say plant foods, vegetables, fruits, herbs, how those foods were grown, the energy that was put into that food, the intention that was put into raising that food, picking that food, packing it, shipping it, and even preparing it, leaves a signature on that food as well. How that food gets from its source, whatever that source might be, into your body, and the intention that you set with that food, in my opinion, is going to change the way that food behaves and interacts with your chemistry. This is why growing and preparing your own food is one of the most powerful acts of self-love.

7. Stop over-washing your food

This might sound strange but another way to reduce supplement needs is to stop washing your food so much. When we excessively wash our food, especially plant foods, we lose a lot of the biological diversity of the microorganisms that are part of that plant’s contribution to your health. These (yet to be fully understood) microorganisms actually interact with our own gut microorganisms to have a collaborative effort to not only heal the body but also extract and absorb more nutrition from the food you eat. Plants, humans, and bacteria have an ancient and sacred relationship with one another. Sterilizing and overcooking your food destroys this important healing opportunity.

One of the main myths about plant foods is that they don't contain B-12, but here's the thing, what plant foods do contain is bacteria that help us make B-12 in our gut. This would help explain why somebody who is completely vegetarian, and in many cases vegan, can have adequate amounts of B-12 if their food isn't over-sterilized, over-washed, over-heated, or over-prepared. There’s nothing healthier for you than eating raw foods grown in your own garden right off the plant/tree.

I hope these tips help lower your supplement burden, promote much deeper healing for you and create new grooves in your behavior patterns that are going to have amazing outcomes in your overall health. Because you're leading by example, you're going to lead the way for your family and other members of your community to change and feel healthy and vibrant as well.

My suggestion to anyone who's reading this is to strongly consider working with a well-trained, well-experienced, and well-intentioned functional medicine practitioner who can help you identify what you need, what you don't need, and work with you on diet, nutrition, lifestyle, emotional modifications and behaviors to then help you get better as quickly as possible.

It's your right to be healthy. It's your privilege to be alive, and if you're alive, it's your duty to serve your family and community. Life is about fulfillment, enjoyment, and purpose, not pain and suffering. Work with somebody who can help you get to this path as quickly as possible, and instill behaviors and changes that are going to produce long-term outcomes for you, your family, and those around you.

If you’re interested in learning more about how you can take better care of yourself through self-empowered health, join our FREE 30-day program where I share my best personal self-care tips by clicking here: www.30in30.org

If you’re ready to take full control of your health, find your blindspots, and work with a team of dedicated providers, learn more about our Living Proof Essentials program here: https://thelivingproofinstitute.com/essentials-program/