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Medical Files

Reconnecting with nature (and experiencing healing)

/ 09:20 PM September 02, 2011

I do a lot of walking especially when I go up and down the hospital floors to make rounds. This is my version of a surrogate exercise, but one gets a different rush of mood-elevating endorphins when one does a long leisurely trek, appreciating the beauty of nature.

Last week, several colleagues and I had a scientific meeting in Jeju Island in Korea and did long nature treks that surprisingly energized us rather than fatigued us at the end of the day. The island is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Korea, with pine-tree-filled mountains, small volcanoes, lakes, the sea making a wonderful combination believed to have natural harmonizing and healing effects.

Jeju is made more famous by the telenovelas which use the many scenic attractions of the island for their location shots. Newlyweds flock to the island for their honeymoon, with many of them probably having heard of the harmonizing effect of appreciating nature’s beauty in the island. Indeed, what can be a better way of starting a lifelong relationship.


Powerful antidote

One does not need elaborate clinical trials to be convinced that reconnecting with nature can be one of the healthy practices one can do. It’s a powerful antidote to a frenzied kind of lifestyle. Frayed nerves are instantly soothed like the relaxing effect of a balm on sore muscles.

One does not have to go to exotic places abroad to experience the same healing reconnection with nature. I experience the same whenever I get off from the car on Roxas Boulevard at sunset coming from Manila Doctor’s Hospital, and walking the long stretch to the Cultural Center of the Philippines. Leisurely walking while appreciating the change in hues of the fading sun from sweltering crimson to flaming orange then to dimming purple and finally, pitch black can have such a tranquilizing effect that’s probably more potent than strong sedatives.

We have a lot of other natural wonders too in the country that can provide such healing restoration of our health if we regularly commune with them. The overall ambiance in Tagaytay is very similar to Jeju’s.  Same thing with Baguio, Palawan, Boracay, Bohol and the list can get very long. So we don’t have to go far and spend so much to experience the revitalizing and energizing feeling of reconnecting with nature.

In fact, you may not have to leave the house or the village to achieve the same effect. The healing wonders of communing with nature can also be obtained with simple activities like doing some gardening, walking in the park or viewing the birds through a window. Our house designer gifted us a small patch of landscaped design just outside our covered lanai where we have breakfast. Appreciating the plants and flowers from inside the glass windows gives me a natural boost better than coffee while having a leisurely breakfast.

Regularly communing with nature has been shown to have a therapeutic effect on physical and psychological ailments. Many health experts call it “ecotherapy.” Dr. Howard Clinebell wrote a book on it and defined it as healing and growth nurtured by a healthy interaction with nature. He also called it “earth-centered therapy.” The focused self-absorption and appreciation of nature are believed to produce the health-producing effect likely brought about by the secretion of feel-good hormones.

Ecotherapy can be beneficial for various ailments ranging from migraine to attention-deficit disorders to severe psychological or stress-related problems. A study in children aged 7 to 12 diagnosed with attention-deficit disorder showed that they functioned better after an ecotherapeutic session or “green” activity compared to a “non-green” activity like watching TV or playing video games.

For stressed individuals the improvement comes from nature’s ability to capture their attention involuntarily, giving the overstressed brain a chance to have a break from whatever is stressing it and allowing it to recharge.


Longer life span

Ecotherapy can also be a great equalizer when it comes to health-promotion. A study in the United Kingdom showed that the health disparities normally seen between the rich and the poor became insignificant when access to green areas was factored in. Such effect is true even in the elderly. One study of octogenarians conducted in Tokyo found that those with access to green space had a longer life span, even when socioeconomic status was considered.

Reconnecting with nature can be an important anti-stress and disease-preventing form of therapy in our increasingly urbanized world. It appears that having a refreshing contact with nature regularly can go a long way in keeping us mentally and physically healthy.

Communing with nature can also make one realize the rhyme and rhythm of God’s creation. This can easily debunk the theory of chance occurrence of everything in this world as suggested by evolution advocates. We can only thank and praise God for Mother Nature.

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TAGS: diseases, ecotherapy, exercise, healing, health and wellness, Nature
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