I spend a lot of my waking hours in meetings, working at my PC, suffering through Metro Manila traffic and breathing in our famously polluted air, so this long Independence Day weekend was the perfect excuse to escape from the city.
Every time I travel with my family -- whether it's here in the Philippines or out to another country -- we always find time to surround ourselves with nature: be it sun, sand and sea, mountains or hills, forests, rivers or caves. There's something about being close to nature that elevates your mood and helps you be in the present, quiet your mind, relax and reset.
And it's not "just a feeling": an increasing amount of research shows a correlation between spending time surrounded by nature and measured improvements to health and wellness. For example:
Forest Bathing - the Japanese recognized the healing power of simply immersing oneself in nature including lowering of cortisol (the stress hormone) and boosting the immune system. Take a look at some of the research around this here.
Grounding or Earthing - Simply going outside and placing your bare feet or hands on grass or the earth, or immersing yourself in water (the beach or a lake) can reduce stress levels. Read up on some of the studies here.
I guess we are just naturally drawn to the elements. It's one of those undeniable primal connections that somehow helps to rejuvenate and restore us.
Luckily for us, almost any kind of terrain is easy to get to from Manila: trekking options abound in nearby provinces like Batangas or Rizal, the beach is 2-3 hours away, and majestic waterfalls can be found as close as Laguna. When all else fails there's always the UP Campus, La Mesa Dam, Ninoy Aquino Parks and Wildlife (not kidding!) or your favorite neighborhood park. Simply find your green space, make contact with the earth and soak in the goodness.
This weekend we chose to head north towards Ilocos, for the first time in 14 years. Yes it was a looooong drive, but we had plenty of stops and hopped from La Union to Vigan to Laoag and went from the beach in Santiago to cobblestones in Vigan to sand dunes in Laoag.
Head on out and find your green space! Happy Independence Day, everyone!