I recently wrote an article for the Hawai`i Herald about the power of nature and how being outside helps your physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual state and overall well-being. I learned a thing or two of how amazing the sun is and how blessed we are to live in Hawai’i nei, being surrounded by nature and beauty everywhere you look. The sun gets a bad rap from the threat of skin cancer, but there are also so many healing properties from just being out in the sun. I realized that I too, get caught up in the busyness of life and don’t get out outdoors as much as I “should”. Of course, there’s the “don’t should all over yourself,” but once you recognize the benefits of the sun, make your own best judgment.
Truly there is no excuse for any of us to not make, or take, the time to get out in the sun for just 10-20 minutes a day. The simple fact that you are literally a walk or even a short drive away from the ocean, mountain, or park provides the perfect time for you to immerse yourself in nature. For those of you who are city slickers, I too admit that I don’t like getting dirt or mud on me. If it wasn’t for my experience as a Boy Scout, hiking the different trails such as the Na Pali coast on Kaua`i, Haleakala Summit on Maui, and Mauna Loa summit on Hawai`i, I wouldn’t have been exposed to the calmness and nurturing power of nature. Also, back in the day, there were no cell phones or social media to tempt me from being present in the moment. Being submerged in nature helped develop my ability to not become dependent on a smartphone to keep me entertained.
Until you choose to get unplugged and make the effort to go outside, know that you are the best advocate for your physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual wellness. However, it doesn’t take much to get a boost and allow nature to help you. So, I decided to share the simple power of the sun and negative ions.
The Miraculous Sun
Although the sun has gotten a bad rap due to the potential of getting skin cancer, researchers from the University of Edinburgh in the UK suggest moderate sun exposure provides health benefits that outweigh the risk of developing skin cancer. The one, well-known reason for getting out in the sun is to encourage the production of the essential Vitamin D. Discoveries by scientists and numerous studies through the years have shown that Vitamin D helps to improve your bone health by stimulating absorption of calcium and phosphorus and at the same time improve brain function by spurring nerve growth in the hippocampus. Vitamin D has also been shown to decrease your risk of breast and colon cancer. Did you know other sun exposure benefits:
- Helps to lower blood pressure by releasing nitric oxide
- Improves your mood by producing serotonin, a mood lifting hormone
- Improves sleep quality – stops producing melatonin and regulates your circadian rhythm better.
- Lessens Alzheimer’s symptoms
- Shown to heal some skin disorders such as acne, psoriasis, eczema, jaundice
- Boosts your immune system by increasing your white blood cells.
The fringe benefits of getting out in the sun is impressive. I am not in any means recommending you sunbathe for hours, but to use your own judgment, and even though experts have recommended no more than 15 to 20 minutes of direct sunlight daily for a healthy adult, check in with your body and see how much sun exposure you need.
Nature Provides Negative Ions
Go to the ocean. Even if you don’t like to swim, just being near the crashing of the waves helps to calm your mind and emotions. The reason is negative ions, which are formed in nature by the rain, wind, and sunlight that creates these microscopic molecules. Research over the past 100 years has shown that negative ions have an anti-microbial effect along with influencing serotonin levels in your brain, which improves your mood and stabilizes your emotions. If you don’t like the beach or ocean, then go to your neighborhood park, hug a tree, go to a nearby running stream, and play in the rain.
Wait a minute…not only does going out in nature help to boost your immune system, but it also helps you feel mentally and emotionally better, so why were we mandated to be locked indoors when we are surrounded by the amazing healing properties of nature? Isn’t it fascinating that in the beginning of our COVID experience, the government’s mandates were to stay indoors, have curfews, beaches and even hiking trails were banned?
In closing, know that nature is a free and inexpensive resource that can help you stay healthy and well. Don’t just take the time, make the time to observe nature, but more consciously get out and BE in nature. As we enter the fall, prepare yourself mentally, emotionally, physically, spiritually, and chemically to deal with the winter and typical flu season. Nature has got your back, and all you need to do is choose to support yourself by the outdoors.