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 Connect with Nature 
The following is one in an ongoing series of columns entitled Simply Well by . View all columns in series
The human body needs the touch of nature along with the touch of human skin. Yet too many people have dulled their senses and thus silenced that need. It’s easy to go several months without ever touching the earth, as most of our activities involve walking on pavement as we move from home to car to office to grocery store and back again. When was the last time you sat down on the ground or touched the earth in some way?

Physical contact with soil, natural waters, sunlight, and fresh air is healing. When stress has built up to the danger point, a trip to the ocean or mountains, or even a walk around the block, is often all you need to restore perspective. Beyond that, contact with nature keeps you apprised of your place in the ecological system. Many of nature’s forces are stronger than an individual human, just as many species are more vulnerable than humankind. This humbling perspective keeps the big picture in mind.

"In wilderness is the preservation of the world."

Henry David Thoreau

Start Today
Here are some simple ways to connect with nature again:
  • Go barefoot. Feel the grass or the gravel or the hard-packed earth under your feet. Wade in a rain puddle, or walk barefoot in the snow for a new sensation!

  • Grow plants or flowers and let your fingers touch the earth.
  • Keep living green plants and flowers around your house.
  • Get outdoors, if only for a few moments a day. Let the sunlight touch you and warm you. (For longer periods in the sun, be sure to wear protective clothing and hats.) In the heart of a city, it is still possible to find green zones.
  • Listen to the sounds of nature—the wind blowing, rain falling, birds chirping—even in the midst of an urban environment.
  • Prepare your meals using fresh and raw foods whenever possible, or bake your own bread. Carefully handling the fruits of the field reminds you of your connection to the earth.
  • Practice the Native American way of adapting yourself to nature, rather than trying to make nature adapt to you. For example, avoid dependency on air-conditioning in hot weather. In cold weather, keep the heat in your home at 68°F (20°C) or lower.
  • When you are around young children, use language that communicates a healthy respect for the power of nature and a sense of awe at its beauty and mystery. Avoid teaching them that soil is dirty or that any creatures (even so-called vermin) are bad.
  • Exercise outdoors as much as possible. Take a hike. Go for a bike ride instead of driving your car to the corner store. Rollerblade in the park, or get a group of friends together for a ball game or a kite-flying party.
  • Plan your vacations for maximum enjoyment of the outdoors (with minimal environmental impact). Even a one-day family trip with a picnic can be a tremendously healthy break in your normal routine.

Reprinted with permission from Simply Well by John W. Travis, MD, & Regina Sara Ryan. Copyright 2001. Ten Speed Press, Berkeley, CA.

John W. Travis, M.D., M.P.H., acknowledged as a key founder of the wellness movement, established the first wellness center in the U.S. in 1975 and created the Wellness Inventory (the first wellness assessment) as a whole person intake for center clients. His Wellness Energy System (represented as the 12 dimensional wellness wheel), is the whole person model upon which the Wellness Inventory is based and is even more relevant today, 40 years later. He is co-author of the classic Wellness Workbook with Sara Regina Ryan (Ten Speed Press). The online version of the Wellness Inventory may be accessed by individuals at ( and licensed by organizations).

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 About The Author
John W. Travis, MD, MPH, is the creator of the Wellness Inventory and its parent, the Wellness Index. He is the founder and co-director of ...moreJohn Travis MD, MPH
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