Everyone has felt the impact of stress on their bodies. Though few of us are running away from bears, our “fight or flight” sympathetic nervous systems kicks in too often in our fast-paced, 24-hour-news world. Negative stress, especially chronic stress, can damage health. A 2015 study in the Journal of Management Science reported that work-related stress alone costs the U.S. economy over $190 billion in healthcare costs each year.1 Stress wears down our immune systems and makes us more prone to infection, pain, and mood disorders like depression. Stress disrupts our digestive system and our sleep patterns. Stress contributes to weight gain, skin problems, and many other health woes.
The effects of stress were well-known in Edgar Cayce’s lifetime. In 1932, a Harvard physiology professor named Walter Cannon authored a popular book called The Wisdom of the Body in which he coined the term “fight-or-flight.” Recipients of Cayce’s readings exhibited symptoms of chronic stress as well as symptoms from their attempts to combat stress through alcohol, gambling, smoking, overeating, and opioid addiction. The readings recommended healthy coping skills like improving the diet and exercising to strengthen the person’s resilience and ability to deal with stressors. Another important healing recommendation for mental stress was to get outside. Exposure to nature, “sun, sea, sand, pines or the woods” (386-1,) was recommended in more than 100 readings. The readings elaborated that nature was one of the most important healing forces:
These are needed more for the body than any other condition - sunshine and shadows. The body needs to get CLOSE to nature, with nature's curers - as will be found in sand, sunshine, water, woods … Such natures as this, and we will find, in three to four weeks, with such care of self, such taking of sunshine baths, of sand baths, of walks in wood, of communing with nature, and of introspection of self and duty to self and that owed to mankind and to God, through the efforts of the individuals themselves, there will be brought strength, power, force, vitality.
Edgar Cayce reading 5618-5
Though these Cayce readings about the importance of nature to counteract stress were given more than 75 years ago, human behavior hasn’t changed much – if anything, in 2018, there are even more unhealthy “coping” options. Fortunately, there is a worldwide movement to reconsider “sun, sand, water, and pines” healing too. Though too much sun exposure can lead to skin cancer and premature aging, most of us understand the importance of Vitamin D to our health. For healthy individuals, Vitamin D is best obtained from short midday exposure to sunlight. Relaxing in the ocean or on a beach is high on many peoples’ lists of vacation choices; we don’t need to be convinced of the relaxing properties of sea and sand. The Cayce readings’ mentions of healing pine trees and oak woods anticipated a 21st century trend. Japan has become the leader, coining the term shinrin yoku, translated as “forest bathing,” in the 1990s2. Studies done by the Japanese government affirmed the stress-reducing properties of spending time in the woods and inspired the creation of the Association of Nature and Forest Therapy, an American organization that describes itself as “a research-based framework for supporting healing and wellness through immersion in forests and other natural environments.”3 Nature and Forest Therapy, simply spending 20-30 minutes in the woods, has been associated with a 12-14% decrease in salivary cortisol, a stress hormone, a 7 percent decrease in sympathetic nerve activity, a 1.4 percent decrease in blood pressure, and a 5.8 percent decrease in heart rate. Studies on people who consistently spend time in the woods have shown a 50 percent increase in the number of some specific immune cells.3 Scientists hypothesize that the aromatic compounds released by the trees lead to calming and healing–natural aromatherapy!
Whatever the reason, getting outside helps reduce stress and increase resiliency. Wherever you live, get outside on a nice day to your local park, woods, beach, or body of water. You will feel better - body, mind, and spirit.
1.The Relationship Between Workplace Stressors and Mortality and Health Costs in the United States Joel Goh, Jeffrey Pfeffer, Stefanos A. Zenios
Published Online:13 Mar 2015 https://doi.org/10.1287/mnsc.2014.2115
Journal: Management Science, Volume 62, Issue 2, February 2016, Pages iv-vii, 303-630