A number of studies have emerged in recent years which demonstrate how spending time in nature benefits our health, and the observation seems to be surprising to many people, even though being outside and surrounded by nature is (or was) our first and most natural environment. We don’t really need science to show us this, as many can simply feel it from personal experience or intuition, but it’s still nice to have that knowledge confirmed scientifically.
Now, new research published in Health & Place has found that living in a residence with a view of the ocean is associated with improved mental health. The study looked at the visibility of green and blue spaces for residents in Wellington, New Zealand. Green spaces were forests, parks, and other similar areas, while blue spaces were defined as water regions like oceans and rivers. Researchers used topography data and compared it with information that assessed anxiety and mood disorders which had been gathered from the New Zealand Health Survey.
The researchers (from the University of Canterbury in New Zealand and Michigan State University) also took into account people’s income, age, and sex, and eventually found a positive correlation between people who had a view of the ocean and positive mental health.
What’s interesting about the study is that the positive results were only seen for residents living near the ocean, or ‘blue’ spaces, not green spaces. Living near forests and other green spaces did not yield the same results.
A Little More Research On Nature Therapy
A recent study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that spending time in nature decreased obsessive and negative thoughts by a significant margin. Researchers compared the reported rumination of participants who hiked through either an urban or a natural environment. They found those who walked for 90 minutes in a natural environment reported lower levels of rumination and they also had reduced neural activity in the subgenual prefrontal cortex, an area of the brain related to mental illness. Those who walked through the urban environment, however, did not report decreased rumination. This study showed how hiking can actually change the brain.
A study conducted by psychologists Ruth Ann Atchley and David L. Strayer found that creative problem solving can be drastically improved by both disconnecting from technology and reconnecting with nature. Participants in this study went backpacking through nature for about 4 days, during which time they were not allowed to use any technology whatsoever. They were asked to perform tasks which required creative thinking and complex problem solving, and researchers found that performance on problem solving tasks improved by 50% for those who took part in this tech-free hiking excursion.
Grounding, or ‘earthing,’ as some people call it, involves placing your feet directly on the ground without shoes or socks as a barrier. The logic behind this practice relates to the intense negative charge carried by the Earth. This charge is electron-rich, theoretically serving as a good supply of antioxidants and free-radical destroying electrons.
Dr. James Oschman, a PhD in biology from the University of Pittsburgh and an expert in the field of energy medicine, notes:
Subjective reports that walking barefoot on the Earth enhances health and provides feelings of well-being can be found in the literature and practices of diverse cultures from around the world. For a variety of reasons, many individuals are reluctant to walk outside barefoot, unless they are on holiday at the beach. (source)
A study published a couple of years ago in the Journal of Environmental and Public Health titled “Earthing: Health Implications of Reconnecting the Human Body to the Earth’s Surface Electrons” postulates that earthing could represent a potential treatment/solution to a variety of chronic degenerative diseases.
It concluded that simple contact with the Earth, through being either outside barefoot or indoors connected to grounded conductive systems, could serve as a natural and “profoundly effective environmental strategy” against chronic stress, ANS dysfunction, inflammation, pain, poor sleep, disturbed HRV, hyper-coagulable blood, and many common health disorders, including cardiovascular disease.
Another study, conducted by the Department of Neurosurgery from the Military Clinical Hospital in Powstancow Warszawy, along with other affiliates like the Poland Medical University, found that blood urea concentrations are lower in subjects who are earthed (connected to the earth potential with the use of copper wire) during physical exercise and that earthing during exercise resulted in improved exercise recovery.
These results suggest that earthing during exercise inhibits hepatic protein catabolism or increases renal urea excretion. Earthing during exercise affects protein metabolism, resulting in a positive nitrogen balance. This phenomenon has fundamental importance in understanding human metabolic processes and may have implications in training programs for athletes. (source)
One study, published in the Journal of Alternative and Complimentary Medicine, even concluded that earthing may be “the primary factor regulating the endocrine and nervous system. (source)
According to a review published in the Journal of Inflammation Research:
Grounding reduces or even prevents the cardinal signs of inflammation following injury: redness, heat, swelling, pain, and loss of function (Figures 1 and 2). Rapid resolution of painful chronic inflammation was confirmed in 20 case studies using medical infrared imaging (Figure 3). . . . Our main hypothesis is that connecting the body to the Earth enables free electrons from the Earth’s surface to spread over and into the body, where they can have antioxidant effects. Specifically, we suggest that mobile electrons create an antioxidant microenvironment around the injury repair field, slowing or preventing reactive oxygen species (ROS) delivered by the oxidative burst from causing “collateral damage” to healthy tissue, and preventing or reducing the formation of the so-called “inflammatory barricade”. We also hypothesize that electrons from the Earth can prevent or resolve so-called “silent” or “smoldering” inflammation.
There seem to be dozens of studies which confirm the physiological effects of grounding, which include anything from anti-aging and heart health benefits to improved sleep and much, much more.
“This simple process of grounding is one of the most potent antioxidants we know of. Grounding has been shown to relieve pain, reduce inflammation, improve sleep, enhance well being, and much, much more. Unfortunately, many living in developed countries are rarely grounded anymore.”
– Dr Jospeh Mercola