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Nature's Remedy: How Sunlight, Grounding, and Breathing Can Boost Your Mental Health


Grass with Sunlight

As I prepared to write a blog about the outdoors and mental health, I reflected on how much I love to read statistics! I spent a bunch of time looking at statistical data on how the outdoors can impact a person’s mental health. The nerd in me was excited! But don’t worry, this blog isn’t going to be filled with statistics or the research data that I found. My goal is to convince you to connect to nature – in a way that works the best for you.


I will highlight a few important points, give you some ideas about connecting in those areas, and offer a challenge to get you outdoors. My main points will include sunlight, grounding, and breathing.


Sunlight works amazingly well with our bodies. Light in the morning and dark at night keep our bodies in rhythm and help us produce the hormones we need for mental focus and emotional balance to keep our energy levels up. There are lamps available to help with exposure. These can be especially helpful during winter and for people stuck inside during daylight hours. However, the best thing to do for natural light is be by a window or go outside! 5 to 15 minutes per day can make a difference. Of course, some people have green spaces immediately outside their living areas; for others, getting to where the air is sweet might be challenging. No matter your situation, if you dedicate just 1% of your day to natural light, your body will thank you.


Grounding, we are not talking about when you were a child and couldn’t spend time with friends! Grounding is working with the ground outside, sometimes referred to as earthing. A brief bit of history is that a retired executive learned about the Earth’s natural electric charge. He experimented with walking barefoot and touching natural Earth, and he began to experience less pain and fewer aches and was sleeping better. Since then, grounding or earthing has received much more attention. The internet is loaded with data, but my inner nerd isn’t going to bore you with those details. Think of it this way: getting in contact with the Earth can help reduce chronic pain, improve sleep quality, and reduce inflammation. There are products like mats and sheets you can buy if needed, but just getting out in the dirt works, too. Always consider safety from glass, rocks, sharp objects, chemicals, etc. Also, pregnant and nursing moms need more information on this practice from their doctor. After covering all those bases, just get your feet into the dirt. You can stand on the ground, sit on the ground, or do some gardening with dirt in your hands. 


Lastly, take a deep breath through your nose, hold it for 2 extra seconds, then blow it all out through your mouth with exaggerated force. Our bodies will just keep breathing even if we aren’t thinking about it. That’s a very good thing! But I want to encourage you to think about your breathing. Watch the rise and fall of your chest, hear the air as it passes in and out of your body, feel the warmth of the air, and count how long you breathe in and how many counts you exhale. While this work can also be done indoors, the benefits are amplified when doing it outdoors. You hear words like meditation and mindfulness; breathing is where it all starts. This awareness of your breathing can help with self-reflection, personal growth, and maintaining recovery with mental health. 


I told you about sunlight, grounding, and breathing. Of course, these are areas that you could dig deeper into, but starting here with the basics is excellent! My challenge is for you to add these three things to your daily to-do list and share it with someone you trust. This can be a friend, neighbor, family member, therapist, or support worker. How are you going to incorporate sunlight, grounding, and breathing into your day today and tomorrow? 

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