Spring has officially arrived and is in full bloom! Allergies aside, there's no better time to be in nature than during the Springtime season. Gorgeous, colorful flowers are in bloom; April showers bring bright green vibrance to the trees and grass; and the weather is finally warm enough to allow us to shed the big puffy jackets we've lugged around all winter.
Even better yet? Last night, April 26th, was the New Moon in Taurus, which is a time of slowing down, reveling in your senses and finding pleasure in the little things around us. Makes sense, doesn't it, that this time of year - the awakening of nature's beauty, of the slow and steady growth of new life - would be so aligned with Taurus' feel good, sensual energy?
For me, this doesn't just mean taking a break from work or life to sit still for a moment. Rather it teaches me to embrace the presence, be more in the moment and revel in what is here and now - something I, admittedly, have difficulty doing. Luckily, we've had a short getaway planned for this weekend to a small town in the middle of Virginia with hiking, good food and reading outside in the sunshine on the agenda. Perfect timing, isn't it?! The weather is going to be beautiful, and there's one thing I cannot wait for: nature!
Like many of us living in a major metropolis, I regularly fall asleep to honking horns + people yelling on the sidewalk, bright street lights + the rumble of city busses on the streets below. What I oftentimes crave and don't get nearly enough is being outside in Mother Nature. Quiet solitude surrounded by greenery, feet sinking into fresh dirt. In fact, studies have said Americans spend 87% of their time indoors. EEK! That statistic is frightening to me, making my head swirl with thoughts of concern about how this lack of touching, feeling, sensing the natural world can be detrimental to our health. Here's why - along with a few ways to get back in touch with your wild side.
Vitamin D deficiency is already a real issue in our country. Additionally, when we do go outside we're slathering ourselves with sunblock, making any sun rays trying to pass on some vitamin D love hit a roadblock instead. This deficit may cause an imbalance in hormone regulation, malabsorption of calcium, lowered immunity, fatigue and depression. Sunshine in the springtime air or feeling less than vibrant? I'll take the sunshine, please!
Next time you step out, forgo the sunblock for at least 15 minutes. Though the protection is necessary in preventing skin cancer, it physically blocks most UV rays from penetrating the skin for absorption (i.e. vitamin D). In nice temps, expose your arms and legs to allow that vitamin D to seep right in. If your skin is very fair or sensitive to the sunshine, catch some rays during an off-peak time of day - think early to mid-morning and late afternoon.
A sad colony of microbes is the last thing you want to deal with, but remaining inside in a sterile environment doesn't allow your skin or gut microbiotic communities to flourish. Instead, the dirt under your fingernails is flushed out by antibacterial soap (killing "99% of germs" in it's way), filtered air flows through your nostrils, and your feet are protected by cushioned soles. Sounds pretty sanitary, right? Sure! But your body needs those microbes, or bacteria, found in nature. Digging in a garden or playing with dirt alongside your kid while breathing in fresh (unfiltered) air allows those natural bacterial organisms to enter your body via the nose, mouth, and skin. These beloved bacteria help to strengthen your immune system, balance your skin's own microbiotic community + pH, and colonize your gut microbiome for better digestion, nutrient absorption and even mental health (more on this in a later post!).
Inflammation is spoken about a lot these days in the health world. We become inflamed from eating too much sugar, processed foods, hormone-injected meats; from not exercising and getting our blood flowing on a regular basis; and from smoking or drinking alcohol. But the lack of physically touching the Earth can actually contribute to inflammation in the body, which leads to digestive issues, diabetes, weight gain, heart disease, cancer, moodiness and other mental imbalances.
Participating in an activity called Grounding, or Earthing, has been shown to reduce inflammation, help to heal injuries, increase electrical activity in the brain, restore blood flow and calm stress in the body. Simply put, Grounding is the act of walking barefoot on the Earth to absorb electrons. A simple walk in the woods or on your back lawn sans shoes is all you need to feel the advantages.
Before you run off because of all this chatter of new moons and absorbing the Earth's energy with bare feet, consider trying it yourself! While you'll probably not feel "less inflamed" after spending a little time walking around your backyard, you'll likely feel more calm. When was the last time you just reveled in the sensation of your naked feet on the Earth's surface, anyway? Give this article a read for a bit more insight on the practice.
With busy schedules and demanding lives, our bodies and minds can already be stressed, anxious and worn down. Use this season (and the fragrant blossoms, bright sunshine + lush green grass) as an excuse to embrace the outdoors a little bit more. Spend some time this weekend reading in a nearby park, taking a slow walk through your favorite neighborhood, going for a hike with a girlfriend or simply taking your lunch outside.
On days when the sun is shining bright and warm, I try to take a moment mid-day to linger outside just long enough to feel energized again before heading back to work. While I'm sure I, along with many in our country we've learned, don't spend nearly enough time outdoors, there is little to replace the feeling of connecting - even for a few minutes - with the natural world. So, this new moon cycle I'm taking an oath to find pleasure in the power of the Earth, while slowing down to be in the presence of the warm caress of the sun's rays and the sweet scent of a newly blossomed flower.
What will you do to get outside and embrace nature this cycle? Let me know by taking a photo and posting it on Instagram, tagging @gatheringwellness + using the hashtag #findyourglow, or by posting it to the Facebook page!
PS - Each month I'm fortunate to attend New Moon circles guided by a dear friend, Joanna Andreae of Wandering Wellness. These events are a celebration of nature's natural cycle of the moon and a time of intention setting, connecting the waxing of the new moon with the growth and expansion of each month's intention. If you're interested in attending the circle in DC, go to Joanna's Events page for the next one. Not in DC? Check out who may be hosting a gathering in your area here.