I’m sick of being cold.
I’m sick of the shorter darker days.
I’m craving to be outside and luckily this spring I have a whole line up of awesome free healing articles for you on my blog that will help you get outside and feeling the best you’ve ever felt. If someone has forwarded you today’s article, you can sign up right here to get one free article each week directly into your own inbox.
Today we are going to start with why I know you are going to instantly feel better soon, as spring is just around the corner. Let’s go:
3 Reasons You Will Feel Better This Spring
1. You’ll Hear Birds Returning Soon
Low levels of constant indoor noises is harming our health.
Even small noises are an issue. This is one of the reasons being stuck indoors all winter long sucks. It’s not just an airplane passing by or the occasional sound of construction, but the level of normal talking, phones ringing, the sounds of cars passing by on the street outside your window — all of these sounds impact your heart attack and stroke risk, and they all up your risk for metabolic disease too.
We are now aware that normal volumes of speaking and car sounds result in much more insidious health risks over time — compromising the health of your heart, of your brain, of your body. Not only is chronic manmade noise increasing your blood pressure, increasing inflammation in your arteries leading to heart attack and stroke, but it’s also increasing your risk of metabolic diseases and type two diabetes.
Because the disease burden of chronic noise is so directly linked to heart disease, high blood pressure and increased inflammation of the arteries, it’s important for clinicians to start treating noise pollution as a cardiac risk factor on par with smoking history, family history, age, blood pressure, and weight.
Here is a printable medical study you can take to your physician to get them to take noise pollution seriously in evaluating your true cardiovascular risk:
Every 10 dBA increase in noise increases your heart attack risk by 6%, arterial calcification by 8%, and stroke risk by 14%… starting at only 50 dBA! This is why the World Health Organization has now lowered the noise pollution threshold to only 55 dBA.
- So normal conversation (at 60 dBA) can, over time, contribute negatively to health issues… increasing both heart attack and stroke risk by 6% and 14% respectively.
- The normal sound of cars driving/traffic, doubles that — increasing heart attack and stroke risk by 12% and 28% respectively.
- Listening to a telephone ring repeatedly increases risk of heart attack and stroke by 18% and 42% respectively, and on and on.
Clearly, working in a high noise industry (like on an aircraft or in construction) is very hard on the body… this we already knew. What we didn’t know is having a job where you answer telephones, or working at a busy restaurant, or working a the mall, or any other environment with constant conversation and music playing adds to your cardiovascular risk as well.
Review your typical day:
- Do you hear traffic constantly (especially consider if you hear traffic where you sleep at night?)
- Do you work in an area where there is chronic talking (such as a hospital, a hotel, a store or a restaurant?)
- Do you work in an area where there are phones constantly ringing (such as at an office?)
- Do you work in an area that has music playing constantly?
- Do you sleep with music or a television on?
If so, you may want to consider wearing simple, effective ear protection. You can wear simple, soft, effective silicone ear devices to decrease irritating noise while at the same time, helping to clarify important noises that you actually want to hear. Calmer sits barely visible in the ear and uses revolutionary, non-electric technology to reduce mid and high frequency distortion without having a detrimental effect on our hearing.
Calmer specifically helps reduce noises that causes stress and anxiety. They do this without reducing the volume so you don’t feel disconnected from the world, and you can hear what you need to hear clearly. The result is a natural way to minimize today’s constant barrage of environmental noise stressors which have a negative impact on our mental and physical well-being.
You can wear these during waking and sleeping hours. The help to relieve stress while at home, at work, at school, on commutes, while traveling, at restaurants, concerts, or all night long when you want to deeply relax. They are very discrete and you can still hear normal conversation, music, co-workers, etc… but at much safer volumes that protect your long term health and decrease your immediate stress.
When you wear them you not only protect your stress levels and ability to process communication in the short term, but protect your heart and brain and metabolism for the long term, too! Tell your friends, fellow students, co-workers, anyone who ask about them how wearing ear protection can actually decrease heart attack and stroke risk — they will be amazed!
Learn more about how these ingenious, simple ear protective devices work right here. They always go out of stock, so if you want to try out a pair, do so today as they just came back in stock this week.
Back to the health benefits of hearing the birds chirping this spring!
We’ve known for a while that animals improve our mood, health, and even boost longevity (I’ve blogged about how pets can do all of this and more for you right here) and that plants do much the same… decreasing depression rates, anxiety rates, and dramatically reducing stress.
But even knowing all of that, I still think if you ask most people if they would rather see a couple extra birds today or earn a slightly higher paycheck, most would assume that money would provide more satisfaction.
But studies suggest that bird diversity is as important to life satisfaction as an income is. This study, published in Ecological Economics on Nov 2020, found that not only is happiness correlated with local bird diversity, but a 10% boost in bird diversity actually increases happiness to a similar magnitude as a 10% boost in income does!
Analyzing data from over 26,000 adults across 26 different countries, researchers evaluated biological diversity, socio-economic data and life satisfaction surveys to examine what makes the biggest impact on our long term happiness. It turns out, more than plants, more than large fauna, more than insect or tree diversity, bird diversity has the biggest impact on happiness… comparable in magnitude to that of income.
So as the world wakes up around us this spring, stop and look for birds. Or, even easier, just stop and listen. We can often hear birds even when we can’t see them.
Living in an urban area? There are still birds. Listen for them in early morning — sunrise is the best time to hear birds — or listen in the late afternoon hours.
Want to increase the amount of birds you see and hear?
Hang a bird feeder in a window, put some potted plants, a birdbath or a birdhouse on a porch, balcony or doorstep — even without a yard, you absolutely can attract more birds to you, even in urban settings. For inspiration, check out this blog post on Bryony Angells’s blog — it’s so adorable — her hummingbird feeders and more hung up on a 10th story balcony that get’s plenty of attention from local birds!
Want to give your body a double shoot of happiness and a health boost?
Combine grounding and birding (simply touch a leaf or a tree or a flower or a rock or a balde of grass and you will be grounded while you listen to the lovely birdsong) and you will be directly supporting your body’s function while simultaneously boosting your happiness. More on this below…
2. You’ll Be Getting Outside More
We’ve know for a long time (and honestly common sense and personal experience tells you this as well) that time spent outside lifts your spirits. And while you are out there, touch something that will get you grounded. A leaf on a tree, a metal sign post that is anchored into the ground, a flower starting to bloom, even the sidewalk. We already know that grounding (touching) the earth outside immediately impacts our brains.
In fact a double blind medical study published in 2015 found that participants who were grounded had measurable improvements in mood that were significantly higher than the sham-grounded participants.
This fantastic medical study, published in 2018, documents the brain wave shifts that happen near instantaneously, within milliseconds, recorded via an EEG (electroencephalogram) when the human body is grounded.
While grounding has been shown to support brain function by decreasing inflammation, boosting mood, and even shifting brain wave patterns, I believe there is also an exciting novel pathway that explains why grounding may even help improve mental clarity and decision making.
Published in the Journal Of Signal and Information Processing, scientists found that electrical activity from the earth makes a measurable synchronization in our cerebral cortex that allows for real-time coupling between the Schumann resonance and cerebral activity. The researchers postulate this activity is the exact amount of time, length of time, amplitude of signaling, and frequency of time required for a “ping” from the planet to our human brains to occur.
Researchers found that the frequency of this brain ping is once every 30 seconds, which is the brain’s short term memory decay time, indicating that the earth provides perfectly timed “micro-guidance”, re-orienting us in a subtle way that provides meaning and clarity but not long enough as to disrupt cognitive thought as we navigate daily life.
The duration of coherence was long enough to give rise to the possibility that the earth itself may send electrical signaling, or electrical information our brain, just long enough to allow an intuitive insight, or a flash of understanding to occur, but not long enough to disrupt our stream of consciousness.
In other words, it’s possible that the earth boosts our ability to receive orienting information without disrupting cognition.
Even more exciting, the highest cohesion between the earth’s Schumnn Resonance and our human brains is in the parahippocampal gyrus of the brain’s cerebral cortex — this in an area of the brain that provides spatial awareness and navigation. The parahypocamppal gyrus is responsible for accurate and meaningful interpretation of our surroundings, our environment, and for support in making life decisions in a contextually appropriate way.
This gives a very real explanation for why time spent in nature, on the earth, grounded, helps to give rise to a feeling of centeredness, helps to give a deeper perspective on our personal life’s journey, and may even help open our subconscious up to reframing and refocusing our life’s meaning through these environmental “pings” from our planet.
Have you ever spent time in nature when you are mulling over a big life decision, or feeling distraught, overwhelmed or confused, and then you suddenly have a deeper insight, a gut feeling, a pull, or an intuition that provides greater clarity?
These studies suggest a direct pathway for the earth to enhance and support our not only our daily decision making, but also connect to our deeper understanding and even our intuitive capabilities through earth-to-brain coherence.
I think of grounding as hitting a reset button, a chance for a pause that brings clarity into focus. By connecting with the earth, we can shift the brain from high strung beta waves to calming alpha wave patterns, decrease inflammation to help improve mood, even possibly help provide greater clarity or boost intuitive navigation in our lives, all naturally.
Want to hear me talk more deeply about this concept?
Grounding is an instantly accessible healing tool that can provide immediate support during periods of stress no matter where you are or what you are doing.
Whether it’s just a few deep breaths as you sit on a patch of grass, taking a walk through a local park, or standing outside at night looking up at the stars… grounding supports your mood and enhances brain function and provides you with inner clarity and a deeper understanding of meaning in your life.
So the next time you are feeling anxious, or having difficulty finding the clarity to make a big decision, or simply feel your mood dive, just go outside. Touch the earth and let nature support you immediately.
Live in a city?
You can get all of these benefits just by heading to a local park. Studies suggest that adding even a small green space to an urban setting boost health in a measurable and meaningful way. Published in Science Advances in October 2020, researchers found that by adding a small green play area to urban playgrounds, they boosted the immunity of the children using the play area.
Researchers in Finland added a very small, low cost green area in the corner of existing playgrounds in several different urban daycare centers. They added a little grass patch, some small plants and a planter box with garden crops the kids could tend to.
This is what one of the modifications looked like:
After only one month — just 28 days — not only did the children who played in this urban greenspace (an average of 90 minutes a day) have boosted immune markers in their blood (like boosted T cells) they also had an improved microbiota (both on the skin and in their gut biome) similar to children that lived and played in rural areas with large greenspaces and forests. These changes were statistically significant compared both to controls and to their own baseline measurements.
This study is just one example of how you don’t need to live in the country to experience improved health from nature. In fact, in my book The Earth Prescription, I go into great detail about how you can get grounded in urban settings through sidewalks, through touching a metal signpost, through simply touching a leaf on a bush or a tree — even one growing in a downtown city street — that’s all it takes to get grounded from head to toe and experience all of these health benefits.
3. You Might Plant Something This Spring
When you combine the fact that growing plants has been shown to have huge mental health benefits, longevity benefits, grounding benefits, nutritional benefits and more, you would be hard pressed to find another activity that supports your health from so many different angles and in so many ways as gardening does.
Even if you just grow a potted plant or two on a doorstep, there are tons of health benefits from interacting with plants… beyond all the benefits of grounding. It’s actually healing just to be around plants of any kind, even while ungrounded (for example, just seeing a plant through a window or adding a potted plant to a workspace can provide measurable health benefits!)
From a windowsill garden to a flower bed to a large plot of farmland, gardening is more than a way to grow flowers and food… it’s a lifestyle that can help ensure longevity and health.
Multiple studies have found that having access to a garden or other green space decreases depression rates, anxiety rates, and dramatically reduces stress. One study, called the MIND study (conducted in 2007) found that simply walking through a garden or greenway significantly improved mental health, while walking through areas without greenery (such as a shopping mall) significantly decreased mental health.
If simply walking through a green space impacts mental health so much, you can probably guess that hand’s on gardening would boost mental health even more. And you would be right. After an extensive systemic review of 22 studies looking at the health impact of gardening, the results of this meta-anylsis (published in Preventive Medicine Reports in 2016) found that gardening significantly reduced anxiety levels, anger levels and depression rates, decreased tension, stress levels and boosted mood… all while simultaneously improving life satisfaction and boosting over all quality of life. It’s absolutely incredible that simply tending to a garden can offer such a transformative life make-over, but it’s true!
Even indoor gardens can positively impact on your well being, so don’t discount the power of a windowsill garden or a simple house plant to support your health. An exciting study published in 2015 in the Journal of Physiological Anthropology, showed that simply adding plants to an indoor computer room not only boosted the worker’s productivity, it also significantly decreased their blood pressure.
Another study, published in 2007 in the American Society for Horticultural Science found that workers with potted plants in close proximity to them while working took less sick leave off from work and enjoyed increase productivity.
Being physically near plants is so impactful to our mental and physical health that it turns out, even just seeing a plant can significantly impact our recovery from stressful health events. We have such an innate need to be submersed in a world with foliage and plants around us that a study (published in 1984 in Science) found that patients who simply had a view of plants through a window while recovering from surgery had better moods, used less pain medications, had less surgical post-op complications, and even decreased their length of stay in the hospital.
Less pain during recovery and getting to go home sooner after surgery just by looking at plants? That’s an awesome health strategy that I wish more hospital and clinics would take into account when designing their architecture.
By now we’ve all heard of the importance of getting adequate Vitamin D… vitamin D protects so many different aspects of our health, from decreasing diabetes risk to boosting weight loss benefits to decreasing depression risk to preventing depression to predicting better cancer recovery to boosting fertility!
But does gardening actually increase Vitamin D levels?
Yes, says a study published in PLOS One in 2014. Researchers studied thousands of blood samples from patients who engaged in a variety of activities, and found that gardening and cycling were the only two activities that significantly decreased the risk of vitamin D deficiency… superior all other outdoor activities, including fishing and walking. Gardening boosted Vitamin D levels across all age groups, so it’s a fantastic pastime that you never need to outgrow, a hobby to get into for life!
A study published in the Journal of Internal Medicine in 2016 found that people who stayed indoors and avoided sun exposure actually had a shorter life span than those who spent time outside. Participants who avoided the sun had higher rates of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, multiple sclerosis, and pulmonary disease than those who had daily sun exposure. And the results were dose-specific… meaning that the benefits of increased life expectancy went up directly in correlation to the amount of sun exposure. Longer time in the sun = longer life span. That simple! Gardening is a fantastic way to routinely be inspired to go outside and get that sunshine and fresh air, two of natures best holistic health treatments.
Another reason that being a gardener might lengthen lifespan, besides getting more sunlight, is the increase in activity level. A fabulous study (published in 2019 in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine) found that replacing just 30 minutes of sitting each day with light physical activity was enough to significantly decrease mortality rates. And again, here’s the clincher: the health benefit of replacing sedentary time with light physical activity was actually even stronger if you were older than 75 years old. So light activity decreased mortality rates in adults older than 75 years old even more than it decreased mortality rates in younger age groups. In other words, the older you are, the more that activity of any kind increases your lifespan.
No matter how big or small your space is, whether you have a windowsill garden, a potted houseplant or two, a few medicinal herbs grown on your porch, access to a community vegetable garden or pick-your-own orchard or berry farm, or are even blessed enough to have your own land, tending to plants and growing flowers or food is one of the most rewarding, most pleasurable activities that I can recommend.
Want more tips on how to reap the benefits of nature, even when living an urban lifestyle?
I shared the idea to go bird watching, gardening, and hundreds of other tips to boost your health outside this spring with you in my book: The Earth Prescription. I’m so excited to share it with you, and I’d love to sign a copy for you and send it directly from my hands to yours.
Or, order it anywhere books are sold, including:
To a blossoming spring that is right around the corner… hang in there, only a few more weeks to go!
xoxoxo, Laura Koniver MD