North Americans spend some of the most time indoors with recent averages suggesting less than 8% of time is spent outdoors. Clearly, we can see that there is a disconnect from our natural environment. Rewilding is the process of reconnecting to nature and disconnecting from inside and technology. It is about returning to a more wild or natural state. This can be done in many ways. It can be as simple as stepping outside and going for a walk but also encompasses connection through other means like eating wild foods that are organic, local or self-harvested and learning about the natural elements of the world that surround us.
This connection to nature serve to improve mood and decrease anxiety. Our nervous system is largely driven by two main actions sympathetic or stress activity and parasympathetic resting/relaxation activity. Increased time in nature can cause a decrease in cortisol and sympathetic nervous activity. This decrease also is related to a decrease in blood pressure and heart rate. While this decrease in stress nervous tone occurs a rise in parasympathetic or resting nervous system tone happens simultaneously. After 2 days of forest walking a Japanese study showed that the middle-aged participants demonstrated better immune activity after their time outside. These improvements persisted beyond the next month following their return to urban living. Studies such as this indicate how rewilding can be used as a preventative medicine technique.
Being outside has tangible mental and physical benefits that result in better energy, less brain fog, improved sleep and greater sense of well-being. As we commit to being outside more we also commit more attention to noticing subtle changes in our environment. Awareness of these changes means that we are cultivating great awareness and mindfulness in the present moment. Changes in the weather and light also become more important and our bodies can begin to take better cues from the pattern of the sun which improves our circadian rhythm. This directly impacts sleep and exposure to natural light helps combat the negative effects of blue light from our phones, TVs and computers. We can take our nature exposure a step further through grounding and walking barefooted on the earth. By contacting the Earth’s surface electrons with our feet while walking or sitting outside we transfer the energy from the ground into the body. The Earth’s electrons may induce many physiological changes including reduced pain, better sleep and healthy nervous system adaptation.
The benefits we can experience from rewilding are clear and the accessibility is also high. In our urban environments it takes effort to disconnect from modern lifestyle and reconnect with nature. However, the rewards are tangible and generally easily achieved.