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One of the basic tenants of naturopathic medicine is “Vis Medicatrix Naturae” or The Healing Power of Nature. “The healing power of nature is the inherent self-organizing and healing process of living systems which establishes, maintains and restores health. “ (Snider, P., & Zeff, J.L. (1989). Definition of Naturopathic Medicine. American Association of Naturopathic Medicine Position Paper).

To me, this speaks to the intelligent force of life – one that strives for balance and health, one that can heal us. It is in our bodies. It is in our food. It is in our plant medicine. It is an inherent force in our natural world. Just look at the Columbia River Gorge – last year it was devastated by a massive forest fire – this year, you can see new growth happening – in time, Nature will heal the land, restore habitats, and the forest will return.

But as we get more obsessed with our electronic devices, our online connections to the world at large, we lose this vital connection. We are more likely to feel alienated and more prone to reduced attention spans. Richard Louv called this “Nature Deficit Disorder” in his book, Last Child in the Woods. Children and young adults are especially vulnerable to this disorder. There is an immense amount of research showing that nature is good for our health. Spending time in nature reduces stress, lowers our blood pressure, improves our mental outlook, gives us good nutrients like oxygen and vitamin D, and decreases pain.

Being in nature increases dopamine and serotonin in our brains – chemicals that are associated with an improved sense of satisfaction and motivation. Nature reduces anger, stress, and aggression. It promotes a sense of community, it promotes healthy babies. Nature is a powerful antidepressant.

And it is a reciprocal relationship- if we spend more time in nature, we come to recognize the medicine and importance of natural spaces. We are more inclined to maintain and protect the natural space around us because we have a relationship with it. It becomes more than a commodity, it becomes part of our community.

What could be so simple, so natural? Pack a simple lunch, a bottle of water and head for the park. Put your electronics away and spend an afternoon taking a hike, or strolling through your garden, or reading a book under a tree in a neighborhood park. Consider it medicine. The Vis Medicatrix Naturae.

– Dr. Jennifer Means

 

 

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