By Dr. Verna Hunt BSC DC ND
Homeostasis is the foundation of good health. The word homeostasis means the tendency of a system, especially the physiological system of higher animals, to maintain internal stability, owing to the coordinated response of its parts to any situation or stimulus that would tend to disturb its normal condition or function (Wiki). As the cells of the human body continually produce new cells, they break down old cells. If the immune system is not over seeing this process sufficiently, decompensations occur and there is a discontinuity or interruption of normal cellular function leading to a lack of homeostasis.
In addition to the biological homeostatic balancing act our bodies perform, our current world has many additional converging stresses that are further upsetting our body’s natural balance and instinct:
- Instant information communication through electronic devices resulting in a faster connection from the mind, but a loss of heartfelt reflection and addiction to the electronic devices;
- Decreasing energy resources are threatening our way of life as fuel energy and technology may not be available to sustain our way of life;
- Climate change 2–3 times faster – temperature increasing 6 degrees in 75 years resulting in carbon dioxide increasing and oxygen decreasing for life and plant growth;
- Disease – due to weapons of mass destruction (HEU – highly enriched uranium – released into our atmosphere), pesticides and food additives, and wi-fi;
- Economic unrest – gap increasing between the rich and poor, and the middle class disappearing affecting availability of knowledge and the ability to apply it, i.e. health care;
- Social pressures – increased vulnerability & lack of joy, fun and bliss;
- Demography – increasing rage of the world leads to increasing fundamentalism – in an attempt to control through misuse of power and violence many people and environments are harmed.1
Our response to stress, short and long term, determines the effect it has on us and therefore on our homeostasis. Developing coping skills to manage on-going stress requires conscious effort and living in our natural rhythms and that includes relating to our planet Earth.
A wonderful way to interact with the Earth is to go Forest Bathing or Shinrin-yoku. Forest Therapy is a well-researched method first named in Japan in the 1980s.
To engage in forest bathing, go to a forest and open all your senses. Slowly and silently walk around or sit and observe the sights, sounds, smells, tastes and textures in nature. You will feel calmer, rejuvenated and restored.
Many scientific studies are demonstrating the mechanisms behind the healing effects of simply being in wild and natural areas, i.e. many trees give off organic compounds, phytoncides, that support our “NK” (natural killer) cells that are part of our immune system’s way of fighting cancer. Other benefits are: reduction in blood pressure, reduced stress, improved mood, increased ability to focus – even in children with ADHD, accelerated recovery from surgery or illness, increased energy level, and improved sleep.
Enhancements that have been seen include: deeper and clearer intuition, increased flow of energy, increased capacity to communicate with the land and its species, increased flow of life force, deepening of friendships and overall increase in sense of happiness.2
The Association of Nature and Forest Therapy’s website, www.natureandforesttherapy.org, has an excellent explanation of the benefit of forest bathing:
“Sometimes people scoff at the idea of sitting under a tree, as if such relaxation is a waste of time. They do not understand that chronic stress essentially poisons the body. Stress, as a biological function, was and still is essential for our survival. However, the body is not meant to experience the biochemical state of stress at all times. Stressful events are physiologically taxing on the body. Like a rubber band stretched too tight, eventually the body’s immune response will collapse under the pressure. This is in part because of the physiological effects of cortisol, a hormone that is released when you perceive a threat. Cortisol, while biologically useful in truly stressful situations, dampens immune function and, in excess, can cause intestinal bleeding and ulcers as well as bone thinning and osteoporosis. While we need cortisol on one level, overdosing on it can truly be fatal.”
One additional benefit is the opportunity to identify botanicals in ’the wild’ and to observe the relationship they have in nature with other plants, animals and birds. The true roots of Naturopathic Medicine lie in the observation of nature. With removed access to nature and the hectic rush of modern living, such pursuits are often lost to more immediate concerns. However, reflective and observation time in nature not only supports and improves your health, it also reinforces respect for nature and its own symbiosis and homeostasis.
In today’s wondrous pursuits of improved methods of medicinal delivery, assessment and treatment machines and diagnostic testing, it is easy to forget the simple healing power of nature that time in nature provides.
Help your homeostasis by remembering what John Muir wrote, “Thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people are beginning to find out that going to the mountains is going home. Wilderness is a necessity.”
Go forest bathing and improve your health.
More information can be found on spending time in nature and forest bathing at:
1. Homer-Dixon, Thomas; The Ingenuity Gap↩