as well . According to a report issued by the Harvard School of Public Health in conjunction with the John A . Volpe National Transportation Systems Center , “ Excessive anthropogenic [ caused by humans ] noise has been associated with annoyance , disruption of sleep and cognitive processes , hearing impairment , and adverse impacts on cardiovascular and endocrine systems .” 9 It seems the further away from nature we get , the more our bodies have to struggle to adjust to our unnatural lifestyles . Consider whether this struggle may be related to health problems you are experiencing .
Why are we so sensitive to the difference between natural and unnatural environments ? How could something as simple as unnatural sounds have such strong effects on our emotional wellbeing and health ? The answers may lie in how the body , brain , and nervous system process experiences in manmade environments versus natural environments . One benefit of spending time in nature is that you enter a mind state similar to the one typically achieved when using shamanic practices , and the nervous system is able to switch from an alert sympathetic state ( fight or flight ) to a soothing , restorative parasympathetic state ( rest and digest ) for better health . That switchover fosters greater immunity and triggers a process of cellular repair in the body .
Research on “ green exercise ”— in other words , exercise undertaken outdoors , in a natural area — shows it provides even greater health benefits than exercise indoors , presumably because of the effects of nature . Exercising near water may be especially advantageous .
In his book Blue Mind , author Wallace J . Nichols cites many neuroscience studies showing that our moods can be positively affected by time spent interacting with bodies of water . He suggests we humans evolved to be calmed by the mere sight of water before us — a patch of blue meeting the sky and above a field of green .
Perhaps we have inherited an ancestral memory of walking across a lush green landscape , rich with plants that feed us and the animals , and looking toward the horizon to be comforted by the sight of the nourishing waters of a lake or river . In such places , we may experience a sense of home as well as a connection to the land that helps us to better understand who we are and what our lives are about . Writing in Walden ; or , Life in the Woods , Henry David Thoreau said , “ A lake is the landscape ’ s most beautiful and expressive feature . It is earth ’ s eye ; looking into which the beholder measures the depth of his own nature .” 10
Carl Greer , PhD , PsyD is a practicing clinical psychologist , Jungian analyst and shamanic practitioner . He teaches at the C . G . Jung Institute of Chicago and is on staff at the Replogle Center for Counseling and Well-Being , and is the bestselling author of Change Your Story , Change Your Life . To purchase his new book , Change the Story of Your Health , click here and for more information visit CarlGreer . com