Nature vs. Air Conditioning

Have you ever noticed that you feel better when you are out in nature? Well you are not alone. I recently read an article on the benefits of spending time in nature. According to a Japanese study, the more time people spend outside in the natural elements their blood pressure was lower; they had lower concentrations of cortisol, and a lower pulse rate. Mother Nature has a way of making us feel calm and relaxed. This experience is not just to make us feel better, but to make us healthier. There is a popular Japanese exercise called “Shinrin-yoku”, which means taking in the atmosphere of the forest or what some call “forest bathing”.  Shinrin-yoku is used so one can take in the subtle energies of nature and utilize their benefits.  I know from experience that I do feel better, in the outdoors. There is something about being in fresh air that clears my mind and revitalizes my soul.  This is the perfect time of year to take advantage of spending time outside. It might be a little hot during the heat of the day, but you can try to enjoy some time in the evening or in the early morning before the day heats up, to absorb the beneficial energy of nature. There are therapeutic affects of nature on our bodies when we spend time within the glory of the outdoors. Some of these therapeutic effects include a lower heart rate and feeling calm. Maybe you will want to try spending time outdoors to see if these therapeutic effects are beneficial to you.

Another article I read recently was on the evolution of air conditioning. It stated; currently we have a lower tolerance to heat because our bodies are not used to being exposed to warm temperatures for an extended period. When I was little the heat never bothered me. I would play outside all day long and the sweat and perspiration never seemed to affect me. Now as an adult, the moment I start to wilt, I run for the comfort of air conditioning. That is what the article was saying; because we are not exposed to the heat in nature, our bodies are not conditioned to the high temperatures. It is what a friend of mine calls “body shock”. That is when the body is in shock by the extreme changes in temperature. The writer suggested the best way to adjust to the heat is to expose ourselves to the natural climate.  

 

Before the boom of air conditioning, people survived living in warmer climates, because homes were built using the resources of nature to keep them cooler. Builders used trees that were already on the property to lower the temperature inside the structures. Instead of clearing away all the trees and replanting new ones after the home was built, they would design a home to fit into a space where they could use the trees to keep the home cool. In addition to keeping the trees intact, they would use cross-ventilation as a way to keep the air moving and to cool the home.  Using cross ventilation can be a costly idea. Cross ventilation requires a lot of thought and planning when building a home. A builder could not place a series of homes in a row.  The air would not move in more desirable patterns. Homes were spaced out and more land was used. If you look at newly constructed homes, some of these homes do not even have a window on one side of the house. The builders do not put windows on one side of the home because home owners would like to have more privacy. They give up the idea of having fresh air flowing throughout the space, for added privacy. These trends in building make people want to stay in air conditioning and not outside appreciating the gifts of nature.

The best way to adjust to the high temperatures is to reaccilmate ourselves to the heat. We don’t want to be so dependent on air conditioning that we cannot survive a day in the warmer temperatures. As I learned from one study, being in nature is healthy for us. Another article said it is a good idea to learn how to adjust to the heat of nature. So if you can tolerate the elements of nature and climate, it is a wise idea to use the energy in nature to improve your health!

Trends in research related to “Shinrin-yoku” (taking in the forest atmosphere or forest bathing) in Japan. Tsunetsugu Y, Park BJ, Miyazaki Y.   Environ Health Prev Med. 2010 Jan;15(1):27-37.

Air Conditioning It’s not as cool as you think Stan Cox The Plain Dealer July 25, 2010

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