Living in the modern age surrounded by concrete, computers, and cars, it’s easy to forget that we are one with nature. More than that, we are nature. The pollution, smog, and climate change disrupting the Earth affects us just as much as it does the trees, atmosphere, and oceans.
When living beings are in their natural rhythm, they are in a state of homeostasis. This state allows for a steady regulation of hormones and other biological processes. The further we get from this balanced state, the more havoc it can wreak on our bodies.
Daily stressors from traffic, electronics, and finances leave our bodies in a perpetual state of stress from an overactivated sympathetic nervous system. This disturbance in the flow of our natural cadence creates a cascade of a disruptions for our entire body. Even if this goes mostly unnoticed, it can manifest in various areas- especially when it comes to our reproductive health.
Our Natural Cycles
Reproductive health is anything having to do with our reproductive organs and processes. From period cramps, to endometriosis, to infertility, reproductive health issues are becoming more and more common. There are so many factors that contribute to reproductive health issues, and the healing process can be both exhausting emotionally draining. Much like the seasons and cycles of the Earth, our reproductive health reflects our own seasons and cycles. Intuitively, it makes sense that a disconnection from the natural world around us would disrupt our bodys’ nature.
We are Nature
A recent experiment conducted in Japan, had participants walking in either an urban area or a forest area. Scientists controlled for variables like walk length and difficulty, while measuring heart rate, heart rate variability, and blood pressure. Participants were also asked to fill out questionnaires evaluating various psychological measures like stress levels and their mood. Participants who walked in forest areas had significant lower heart rates and heart rate variability- an obvious sign of lowered stress levels.They also reported better moods and lower anxiety levels than those who walked in urban areas.
Scientific experiments aside, we know that nature soothes us. We feel the effects when we take a break from the screens and go outside for a walk. The deep psychological reset from a weekend camping amongst the trees. The revitalizing feeling from jumping into cool, natural bodies of water. We feel better in nature, because it’s where we’re meant to be.
Plastic, Pollution, and Periods- Oh My!
So what does all this have to do with our reproductive health? It’s not just the fact that we’re surrounded by buildings that’s affecting our reproductive health. In industrialized societies, our systems are constantly being flooded with toxins, chemicals, and endocrine disruptors that are common in plastic products and conventionally processed food.
Endocrine disruptor can affect the body in a multitude of ways. Some work by binding to a hormone receptor, and mimicking a hormone’s effect and creating a similar, stronger or weaker response than the actual hormone. Long term or concentrated exposure can cause people to have early onset of menstruation, late menopause, an increased risk of breast cancer, and difficulty conceiving. These effects on our reproductive health range from annoying to painful, to deadly.
Elevated stress, increased arousal levels, anxiety, hormone disruption- the list goes on. Living in industrialized nations can wreak havoc on our bodies- especially when it comes to our reproductive health. Most of us aren’t going to go live in the middle of nowhere anytime soon, as tempting as it sounds sometimes. So how do help to counteract these effects so that we can maintain a balanced sense of health and vitality? Use what you’ve got.
Tune into nature by what resources you have. For those of us living in urban areas, that may just mean walking barefoot in the grass of your local park. Researchers have found that “grounding” or “earthing”, a variety of techniques that aim to reconnect people to the Earth’s electrons, has been shown to decrease stress levels, improve physical health, and increase overall well being. If you can’t get to a park, something as simple as digging your hands in the dirt of your potted plants will allow you to ground down, if only for a moment.
Take the time for fresh air. Going outside and taking a few deep breaths gives your body what it needs to reoxygenate, and come back down to Earth. If there is a certain area of your reproductive system that you’re focusing on, imagine breathing life and circulation into it.
Swimming and immersing yourself in natural bodies of water has the same effect. Not only do you get the mood enhancing effects of physical activity, but being outside gives you a boost from nature. Being in the Earth’s waters mirrors our wombs, and how a baby grows within the safety of the uterus.
Your reproductive health is your health. Any issues you have with menstruation or conception, are a direct result of your overall physical health. While it can be easy to overlook these seemingly simple fixes, it’s sometimes the smallest things that can have the largest effects. So start small. A daily ten minute walk, or quarterly camping trip, has cumulative effects. Notice the effects your time in nature has not only on your mental health, but your reproductive health, and overall well being. Nurture your inner nature, and watch the transformation.
Natasha’s passion for reproductive health began at age fourteen, when she was present for the birth of her youngest sister. Her incredible experiences as a birth doula, has given her hands on insight into the magical realm of birth, pregnancy, and all things in between. Her role as a birth worker, is her way of serving as an activist. She uses writing as a key educational tool for creating change in how we view reproductive health as a whole.