Step outside. Barefoot. It’s good for you. 

Spending time in the outdoors has been proven to have positive mental and physical health effects. It’s important to hear and smell nature, things that often provide feelings of comfort and reduce stress. Photo by trevor pye on Unsplash.

Magic isn’t real, but when I step barefoot into the soft green grass on a summer’s day, I start to think it is.  

It’s a transfer of energy: taking the anxiety coursing through my veins and feeding it to the earth, watching as she uses it to send nutrients to the trees, to care for the world around us.  

I know we all most likely have some experience with this. Whether it be needing to go outside for a breath of fresh air, feeling better after a walk around the neighborhood or just needing to lay in the grass for a while. There are medicinal benefits that we experience when we immerse ourselves in nature.  

A study conducted last year tested the correlation between nature and a person’s health. Dr. Wen and Dr. Yan, among other researchers, explored forest bathing in Japan and the benefits it has on the immune system. Forest bathing, an immersive experience in the woods where you intentionally tune your senses into the environment around you, is one of my favorite ways to engage with nature. This study found that after spending three days and two nights outdoors, people’s immune systems grew stronger and they experienced a reduction in stress. The study stated, “A potential pathway for improved immune function is exposure to phytoncides (a substance emitted by plants and trees to protect themselves from harmful insects and germs), which could decrease stress hormones in the human body and increase NK cell activity.” Not only are the benefits of nature apparent in our own emotions and wellbeing, it’s apparent in the chemical makeup of our bodies. 

The awareness we develop when we tap into our senses extends beyond the outdoors. To me, nature is a tool I use to ground myself back into my body. I become more aware of the rise and fall of my chest, of the birds chirping around me, autumnal leaves fluttering down in the breeze, as I remember what it’s like to be in unity with the world around me. While being outside is an incredible catalyst for this type of mindfulness, I remind myself that in every moment I can return to this state. Stuck indoors with computer screens and LED lights surrounding me, I can still reach some semblance of that peace through tapping into my senses and channeling that earthly energy.   

Observing nature can help us connect ourselves to the world at large. Knowing that we are all part of something huge, fitting into nature each in our own way. Photo by Joel Holland on Unsplash.

By tapping into this natural beauty that surrounds us, it translates into a direct appreciation for the self. How beautiful, these stars lighting up the night sky. How beautiful, myself and the people around me, knowing we deserve to take up space in this insane world just as much as the stars do. Therefore, by reinforcing our relationship with nature, we are also building our relationship with ourselves and our community. The reason why is reciprocity. 

It’s a give and take, both the relationships we have with others as well as the relationship we nurture with our environment. I’m only ever going to be as healthy as the environment around me. If the grass I lay on is dying, soil devoid of nutrients, devoid of pollinators flying from flower to flower, I too am going to be devoid of these parts of life. It’s up to me, and you and all of us, to do what we can to take care of this place. Yes, for the intrinsic value nature holds and also because we as humans will experience the benefits too. 

It feels like this conversation is really esoteric. When I talk about the profound impact nature has on me I’m nervous it’ll come off as too heady. I’ve spent hours laying in the grass on a warm summer’s day focusing on how the breeze meets my skin and how lucky I am to lay here and feel this. Then I think of how nature improving our lives is a universal experience. I know that when my breathing matches the rhythm of the earth, I feel immensely better. Who is to say this isn’t true for everyone? The only difference being some people are tuned into this and those who can’t relate haven’t yet had the chance to really connect with nature? 

Plus, if I am not separate from nature, then the people around me are also not separate from nature. It is this thread connecting all of us. It’s a commonality we all have that I use to humble myself and draw near to my community.  

We all have this one thing in common: being a part of nature. Tapping into this part of ourselves is integral to our wellbeing. The more I’m aligned with nature, the more I feel like myself. I want this for everyone else, too. It’s why I say next summer, leave your shoes off when you go outside. Sink into the soil and feel the earth breathe in tandem. Immerse yourself in this radical beauty.  

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