Why I Feel So Damn Good After Time On The Trail

Recently, I offered a helping hand to a loved one in need of cleaning out her condo in preparation for leasing. For one person, it would require a week of solid work, so a second human resource would surely help her get the job done sooner. Now, before you start with the “Well that was sweet and noble,” you have to know the condo is on Oahu. Yep, I had never been, so the logic was, with only four full days to get the deed done, we’d work hard and still have time to play. And that we did.One of those playgrounds included the Ka’au Crater trail, about 20 minutes away from Waikiki. We made our way out of the downtown area and up to the trailhead where we parked along a luscious wall of green. We proceeded to enter through a portal leading us from the wide open blue skies to a whole new world of enchantment and amazement beneath the greenest canopy of rainforest – a jungle of sorts, complete with huge trunks, houseplants the size of trucks with leaves twice the size of elephant ears; rays of sunshine struggled to make their way through the branches, leaves and thick vines hanging off the top. The trails were highly technical, meandering up and down, requiring the utmost attention to each and every step along the way while maneuvering rocks, roots, and mud. At times, we would need ropes to make our way up the steepest ascents. Each and every breath of air was loaded with what seemed like pure oxygen, offering up the richest prana and light. At one point, heavy rains managed to break through the canopy, baptizing us with a feeling of purity and cleanse. We played like children, wading through streams and pools just below the most beautiful-sounding waterfalls. We stopped and sat, listening through our ears and hearts all that surrounded us, outside and in. As we drove away from that portal, our cups were full, our bodies, minds, and hearts refreshed and renewed. Pure joy.Ever wonder why you feel so (damn) good after spending time in the forest, out over the open plains, or along the beach? For me, there’s always been this healing connection with nature when running, trekking, or simply sitting in the woods. The Biophilia Effect: A Scientific and Spiritual Exploration of the Healing Bonds Between Humans and Nature by Clemens G. Arvay offers up some science behind why it is a really good practice to be one with nature. Here are three I found most interesting:

  1. Biological Communication: Plants communicate, not only with other plants, but also with humans. One of the primary vehicles is by using chemical substances, some known as terpenes, to send messages of threatening pests with details of the type of pest and results of the damage done. Plant immune systems receive these messages and adapt accordingly to protect themselves, and don’t stop here. As we, humans, enter these hotbeds of communication, our own immune systems receive these signals, boosting the effectiveness, and actually increasing our own defenses through numbers and activity
  2. The Unconscious Mind: Our reptilian brains bring forward experiences of our ancestors from over thousands of years. These generational patterns dictate how we respond to certain situations, resulting in reactions ranging from feeling relaxed to fight-or-flight mode. Birds happily singing above us have never really posed much of a threat and, as such, invite a friendly and happy mood. Bushes filled with berries are a sign of nourishment, which in turn might make us feel happy and pleasant. Flowers elicit similar feelings and, surprisingly, indicate food is nearby. Our ancestors used trees as protection and safety for eating and sleeping; being in similar surroundings today will most likely make us feel secure.
  3. Fascination: Humans have two forms of attention – directed and fascination.The first is the one required day-to-day at work or school while we study, read, or drive from point a to b. We eventually pay the price when using directed attention, expending precious energy that can ultimately be quite exhausting and stressful.The second, fascination, requires no energy, is automatic, and actually offers up a recharge for our minds and hearts. Nature is full of things that fascinate; from giant leaves, to granite walls towering thousands of feet up into the air, to waterfalls that seem to drop forever into the most brilliant rainbow.

Arvay captures many more reasons why we feel the way we do while outdoors, so check out his book. But, before you do, get out and connect with all that lives and thrives along the trail. Breathe their precious gift of air. Feel nature’s vibrations as well as the thoughts and experiences of your family from years past. Finally be in tune with all that brings wonder and fascination.