8 Elements of Nature Our Bodies Crave

Our bodies primally crave the elements of nature that once surrounded us. Enhance your family’s health and well-being by incorporating eight of these elements into your home.

| May/June 2013

  • Being around plants can lower blood pressure, foster social connections in neighborhoods and even make workers more efficient and productive.
    Photo By iStock
  • Sunlight increases production of melatonin, which helps us sleep, and serotonin, a feel-good neurotransmitter.
    Photo By iStock
  • Spending time with animals can lower stress and reduce blood pressure.
    Photo By iStock
  • Our bodies crave sunlight, soil, greenery and other elements of nature.
    Photo By iStock
  • A view of clean, moving water sends a strong “I can thrive here” message to our Paleolithic souls.
    Photo By iStock

We all know we need nutritious food, adequate exercise, clean air and secure shelter to thrive. But did you know our bodies also long for the natural world in very real, concrete ways? By understanding these needs, we can provide the deep satisfaction of communing with Mother Nature in our own homes—where a connection with nature can improve our overall health.

It helps to understand where we came from. Our bodies are essentially the same model our Stone Age ancestors walked around in, although our living environments have changed dramatically since then. Some of those changes feel good—like being warm in winter, cool in summer, dry in the rain and safe from predators. But we’re also missing a lot.

Our Paleolithic ancestors were adapted to daily sun cycles, monthly moon cycles and annual seasonal cycles. They lived with waving fields of grass, scattered trees, flowing water, clean air, the call of birds, breezes, bare feet on earth and gathering around the fire at day’s end.

Today’s homes and cities are monotonous and overstimulating by comparison—and we’re usually unaware of how much that affects us. But growing numbers of studies show that tweaking basic elements of our surroundings can restore our vital relationship with the living world, making us happier, healthier and more productive.

1. Sunlight

Many of our bodies’ functions—including regulation of the hormones that control our sleep patterns and weight—are directly affected by sunlight. Electric lighting doesn’t contain all the wavelengths sunshine provides that our bodies need, and it can obliterate our connection with the sun’s daily and seasonal cycles.

Many studies have confirmed the physical importance of exposure to sunlight. Getting prudent, regular sunshine can improve heart health, blood pressure, muscle strength, immune function and cholesterol levels. Sunlight also increases production of melatonin, which helps us sleep, and serotonin, a feel-good neurotransmitter. Daily sunshine on just our face and hands can alleviate winter depression. And allowing the sun to light the indoors has been found to improve well-being and enhance school and workplace performance.

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