Guest blog by Meghan Blake, founder of Fertility Moxie.
I stayed broken, sad and consumed with having my dream come true for the first year of my fertility journey, then something shifted. I said I can’t go on like this. I have to change my mindset. I guess I had to hit rock bottom, only then was I forced to make some positive change.
I felt conflicting information from my fertility clinics and acupuncturist and a lack of support from friends, family members and my spouse. I now know it was not ill intended, they just did not know how to support me. Nobody understood why I changed my lifestyle, went gluten free, started eating all organic, and woke up at the crack of dawn to chart my temps. I felt like it was me against the world. I didn’t know if all of these changes would work, but I was willing to try!
Most of the positive changes I learned through my acupuncturist, some I read about online, and some I just went about instinctively- and one of those instinctive things was to get outdoors and connect with the earth!
When I started to do this consistently, I felt a great sense of power, control, and clarity. When I took my jogs and walks in the woods, I would observe all the beauty in the world, and it gave me hope. I was free to choose what I believed about my body, my life and what I wanted. I did a lot of positive self-talk and visualization. I actually visualized my body making a baby and the entire process my body would go through to make that happen. Again, nobody told me to do this, I just was in survival mode. I was also doing a lot of yoga at the time and I just remember feeling very strong and centered when I was outside. Being outdoors gave me courage and confidence- I guess it gave me Moxie;-)
I would actually meditate and pray in the woods too! It felt great to use the trees as a base to hold on to during stretches and leg lifts, I was truly connecting with the earth and I loved the way the bark felt between my fingers. It felt great to get into downward dog, and feel the earth below me. I would also gaze up at the trees in wonder which helped me dare to dream maybe it was all possible for me? My worries seemed to go away when I was consumed in green- I felt this is where I need to be. Being outdoors has always helped me get my thoughts in order, and during my fertility journey it was a place for me to make my goals and next steps.
Little did I know, apparently there is a bunch of science behind the benefits of being outdoors!
Maybe if I would have read a blog about the benefits to getting outside, I would have been committed to it sooner, reducing my time spent in a negative mindset? For that reason, I am sharing my journey, and all of the benefits to getting outdoors, and why this is a non-negotiable if you are on your fertility journey:-)
The Benefits to Being in Nature:
1. Vitamin D has been linked to a variety of health benefits for women trying to conceive. A recent study found that women with higher vitamin D levels were significantly more likely to achieve pregnancy from IVF compared to women with lower levels of vitamin D. This study was repeated in another IVF center, which confirmed a four-fold difference in pregnancy rates between vitamin D replete and deficient women. In another study looking at the recipients of donor eggs, vitamin D levels in the recipients were associated with clinical pregnancy, emphasizing that the critical role of vitamin D in pregnancy may be within the uterus. (1)
2. Several studies show that nature walks have memory-promoting effects that other walks don’t. In one study, University of Michigan students were given a brief memory test, then divided into two groups. One group took a walk around an arboretum, and the other took a walk down a city street. When the participants returned and did the test again, those who had walked among trees did almost 20% percent better than they had first time. The people who had taken in city sights instead did not consistently improve. A similar study on depressed individuals found that walks in nature boosted working memory much more than walks in urban environments.
3. Being outdoors has a demonstrated de-stressing effect.
Something about being outside changes the physical expression of stress in the body. One study found that students sent into the forest for two nights had lower levels of cortisol — a hormone often used as a marker for stress — than those who spent that time in a city. In another study, researchers found a decrease in both the heart rates and levels of cortisol of participants who spent time in the forest compared to those in the city. “Stressful states can be relieved by forest therapy,” the researchers concluded. Among office workers, even a view of nature out a window is associated with lower stress and higher job satisfaction.
4. Spending time outside reduces inflammation.
When inflammation goes into overdrive, it’s associated with a wide range of ills, including autoimmune disorders, inflammatory bowel disease, depression, and cancer. Spending time in nature may be one way to help keep that in check. In one study, students who spent time in the forest had lower levels of inflammation than those who spent time in the city. In another, elderly patients who had been sent on a weeklong trip into the forest showed reduced signs of inflammation. There were some indications that the woodsy jaunt had a positive effect on those patients’ hypertension levels as well.
5. Enjoying the outdoors helps eliminate fatigue.
You know that feeling when your brain seems to be sputtering to a halt? Researchers call that “mental fatigue.” One thing that can help get your mind back into gear is exposing it to restorative environments, which, research has found, generally means the great outdoors. One study found that people’s mental energy bounced back even when they just looked at pictures of nature. (Pictures of city scenes had no such effect.) Studies have also found that natural beauty can elicit feelings of awe, which is one of the surest ways to experience a mental boost.
6. Outdoor experiences may help fight depression and anxiety.
Anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues may all be eased by some time in nature — especially when that’s combined with exercise. One study found that walks in the forest were associated with decreased levels of anxiety and bad moods, and another found that outdoor walks could be “useful clinically as a supplement to existing treatments” for major depressive disorder. “Every green environment improved both self-esteem and mood,” found an analysis of 10 earlier studies about so-called “green exercise.” That review also indicated that “the mentally ill had one of the greatest self-esteem improvements.” The presence of water made the positive effects even stronger, the findings suggested.
7. Spending time outside lowers blood pressure.
With all these other salutary effects, it’s no surprise that outdoor time — which usually involves walking — lowers blood pressure too. That effect has been demonstrated by a number of studies. One intensive study of 280 participants in Japan found that along with decreasing stress hormone concentrations by more than 15%, a walk in the forest lowered participants’ average pulse by almost 4% and blood pressure by just over
8. It could improve your ability to focus.
We know the natural environment is “restorative” — that even applies to your waning attention. In one study, researchers worked to deplete participants’ ability to focus. Then some people took a walk in nature, others took a walk through the city, and the rest just relaxed. When everyone returned, the nature group scored the best on a proofreading task. The attention-improving effect of nature is so strong it might even help kids with ADHD: they’ve been found to concentrate better after just 20 minutes in a park. “Doses of nature’ might serve as a safe, inexpensive, widely accessible new tool … for managing ADHD symptoms,” researchers wrote.
9. You may perform better on creative tasks after being outside.
“Imagine a therapy that had no known side effects, was readily available, and could improve your cognitive functioning at zero cost.” That’s the dramatic opening to a 2008 paper describing the promise of so-called “nature therapy” — or, as a non-academic might call it, time spent outside. Another study found that people immersed in nature for four days boosted their performance on a creative problem-solving test by 50%.
10. Outdoor sessions may even help prevent cancer.
Research on this connection is still in its earliest phases, but preliminary studies have suggested that spending time in nature — in forests, in particular — may stimulate the production of anti-cancer proteins. Boosts in the levels of these proteins that people get from being in the woods may last up to seven days after the trip. Studies in Japan, where “shinrin-yoku” or “forest-bathing” is considered a form of preventative medicine, have also found that areas with greater forest coverage have lower mortality rates from a wide variety of cancers. While there are too many confounding factors to come to a definitive conclusion about what this might mean, it’s a promising area for future research.
11. Forests also might boost your immune system.
The cellular activity associated with a forest’s possible anti-cancer effects is also indicative of a general boost to the immune system (the body’s natural ability to fight off less serious ills like colds, flus, and other infections). A 2010 review of research related to this effect noted that “all of these findings strongly suggest that forest environments have beneficial effects on human immune function.” But the researchers acknowledged that more research on the relationship is still needed.
12. With all this, it’s not surprising that outdoor time is associated with a lower overall risk of early death.
Nearby green space seems to be especially important for residents of urban environments, according to a Dutch study of 250,782 people, which found a strong positive connection between green space and health. A follow-up study by the same research team found that a wide variety of diseases were less prevalent among people who lived in close proximity to green space. Other studies have made a direct link between time spent in forests and other measures of overall health. A recent study published in Environmental Health Perspectives found a similar connection: greater exposure to greenness was associated with a 12% lower mortality rate. The biggest improvements were related to reduced risk of death from cancer, lung disease, and kidney disease.
My love for nature and the healing that it brought me is why I make a strong connection with nature through my Fertility Wellness Website and Fertility wellness Box. There is much good that comes from utilizing and connecting with the earth. We can use natural products made with the earth’s ingredients to reduce toxins in our body, and we can reduce stress by getting outdoors. Fertility Moxie further encourages the beauty and healing benefits of nature through our plant perfume essential oil line that was specifically created to support women going through this difficult season in their lives. We hope that when you visit our website, you will enjoy the beautiful imagery from all four seasons and you feel a sense of calm and serenity during this difficult season of your life. Now go take a forest bath!
(1) USC Fertility
(2) Business Insider Kevin Loria Apr 22, 2018
Lauren Friedman contributed to an earlier version of this post.
Meghan Blake is the founder of Fertility Moxie. Fertility Moxie is about encouraging girls and women to have body awareness, and to empower them to take control of their fertility through natural products, self-care, and knowledge from a community of professionals that consider holistic minded health and wellness. We aim to achieve this through our Holistic Fertility Wellness Website, a quarterly Holistic Wellness Box, and Plant Oil Perfumes.