2020 brought massive change on macro and micro levels. We saw destruction to the planet, separation in our communities, and tension in our homes. While some of these changes affected some more than others, most have been affected by an increase of technology. As our work, school and safest way of communication has shifted to digital, screen time has skyrocketed.
In December 2019, Zoom had 10 million daily participants. In March 2020, this number rose to 200 million, and rose to 300 million just one month later. Prior to the pandemic, we were spending as much as 12 hours in front of screens. With the increase of participation on Zoom, you can only imagine what the numbers are today.
A study released in January 2020 revealed that more than three of five Americans were lonely and lacking companionship. “Pervasive loneliness is strongly linked to mental health issues such as anxiety and depression.” Anxiety disorders affect 40 million adults in the US, or more than 18 percent of the population, making it the most common mental illness in the country.
While there are a variety of causes linked to anxiety, indoor screen time is one of the leading suspects. “According to a study sponsored by the Environmental Protection Agency, the average American spends 93 percent of his or her time indoors.” We are spending more time soaking in blue light rather than natural light. That can’t be good for us, turns out it’s not. Replacing natural light with artificial light is linked with harmful diseases like obesity and diabetes. While we are searching for ways to increase our health and well being online, the simple answer is right in front of us. It’s time for an outdoor revolution.
Being outdoors increases levels of vitamin D in the body, which helps us maintain strength in our bones and boosts serotonin. “Multiple studies have shown that spending time outdoors lowers your heart rate and blood pressure, decreases stress hormones, and eases muscle tension.” Nature can actually improve attention, memory, and concentration. Over time, it can reduce your risk of chronic disease and depression.
In Japan, they know the power of nature. They seek outdoors as a refuge from stressful environments. “Forest bathing,” or Shinrin-Yoku in Japanese, means bathing in the ambiance of the forest. The practice is a sense of surrender and reconnection to the natural world. It is seen as a sort of escape, leaving your screens behind to simply find a spot in nature. The intention is to use all your senses and get lost, fully immersed in the wild.
Forest bathing is not about exercise. It’s about taking time and getting lost in the woods to open our senses and pay attention to sights, smells, sounds and tastes. “The key to unlocking the power of the forest is in the five senses. Let nature enter through your ears, eyes, nose, mouth, hands and feet.” It’s an opportunity to savor the moment and listen to our intuition. The purpose is not only to reconnect with the land, but also provide a counter offer to screen time and burnout. It eases our stress and worry, helps us relax and think more clearly, while restoring our mood and energy.
20 Habits For a Healthier, Happier Life from The Blue Zones, an organization dedicated to helping people live longer, includes stress-relieving habits, eating meals with family and friends, and getting outside everyday. If we need time back in nature, why don’t we do it with our friends and food? Not only does eating outdoors increase natural light exposure, it also allows us to absorb more nutrients. Proper digestion relies on a stress free environment and being outside reduces stress. It’s a natural combination, perfectly suited for well being.
Friluftsliv, or “outdoor life”, is a Nordic concept. Similar to Shinrin-Yoku, Friluftsliv is not limited to rigorous activities, it simply celebrates time in nature. We had the pleasure of dining outdoors with the Amundsen crew, a Nordic clothing brand whose anthem is “play well”, in the spirit of Friluftsliv. We hiked to a remote spot at the edge of a cliff. Follow the rock face down hundreds of feet and you will find a gently flowing river. Once we made our way to the location, we stopped to soak in the scene with all our senses. The sound of the river below, a hawk flying above, the smell of fresh pine, and shadows of the sun landing on the rocks, trees and mud all around.
The food was cooked by Ramesh Bhairav. Born in Tibet, Ramesh’s menu focused on rustic simplicity. Rather than getting caught up in perfect technique and preparation, we were there to embrace gathering in the elements. Ramesh cooked stuffed delicata squash over a small grill on an open flame. Turns out Ramesh is skilled at cooking with fire. Growing up in Tibet, coal was his natural heat source and form of cooking. Andre and Rapha, founders of Ferment, a local sourdough company brought a few of their precious loaves. This was their first experience breaking their bread over an outdoor flame, a perfect antidote to the meal.
We spent as much time setting up the equipment as we did cooking. By the time we got everything set up, everyone stepped in to play their part. Before we knew it, we were a well oiled machine. Andre and Rapha peeling citrus, I chopped tomatoes, Ramesh cutting squash, and others slicing the bread. By the time we ate, the sun was behind the mountains and wind started picking up. It was chilly, yet everyone had a smile on their face. It was a recalibration of our senses, a celebration of gathering and time in the wild. After we ate, we packed up, hauled our gear up the mountain, meandered our way off the trail a few times. We soaked in the stars, then headed back into our cars and back to civilization. We were brimming with the afterglow for days to come, and still yearning to get back there. Nature, food, and community. These are simple, necessary antidotes to life that enriches our sense of well-being. It’s your time for the outdoor revolution.
I’m Callie, and I’m the Founder & CEO of Nonna Eats, a Boulder (CO) startup dedicated to fostering community through food. I have experience running a variety of culinary teams, as well as web design and branding.
About this publication
This is a series of stories about reclaiming the art of eating and gathering. Through working with the highest quality chefs and producers, we know how to eat well. If you’d like to read more, please follow. Originally posted on nonnaeats.com.