In today’s hybrid working world of home and office, there is a secret way to generate fresh thinking, boost the mind, and body, and increase productivity. Here it is: use negative ions in a positive way.
What does that mean? When we shower or bathe, negative ions are released into the air. These trigger biochemical reactions, which in turn release serotonin. As a result, we are invigorated. (The science is listed at the end of this article.)
Using negative ions positively reconnects us to the earth. We crave a connection to nature and unsurprisingly the sensation of water on our bodies can be profound. Experiencing the world around us with its range of smells, textures, light, sounds and tastes truly ignites
our senses. The added bonus of spending time in nature is it enables us to soak up the natural Vitamin D from sunlight. The reason we feel great when we walk in forests or barefoot along a beach is that we positively connect to negative ions in such environments. Put another way, we boost our brains when we reconnect to the planet. Dr. Howard explains, ‘negative ions increase the flow of oxygen to the brain, resulting in higher alertness, decreased drowsiness, and more mental energy’.
That is just the tip of the iceberg. Compelling research comes from Landscape and Urban Planning (2015). It identifies how being in contact with nature enhances our well-being.
There is a release of effect as we get more in touch with our emotions. Our cognition also improves. Enjoying the natural world reduces anxiety and rumination. Without any effort, it also increases working memory and concentration.
When we connect with the natural environment, we decrease negative emotional states. The effect is to reboot our Autonomic Nervous System (2007). This explains why breaks away from our highly charged electronic environment are essential. It is also why alternative therapies such as forest bathing (Shinrin-yoku) are growing in popularity (2022).
It is time to sever the constant connection we have to our electronic devices such as smartphones, tablets, and laptops. When we choose to disconnect from such electronic devices, we reduce the sense of panic which sets in when they suddenly crash, or they are out of sight. Electronic equipment with its vast production of positive ions creates a negative state in
which we are particularly susceptible to dopamine hits from social media likes, app notifications, emails, and the like.
Everyone knows how it feels to be without our phones or for the computer to crash suddenly. Panic sets in as suddenly we feel disconnected from the world. However, it is an illusion. Our work has incarcerated us in an artificial dopamine-addicted existence. Each call, message, email, notification, or text is like a little electric shock that someone somewhere needs our attention. This type of connection while superficially appealing lacks the integrity of natural in-person communication. It leads to emotional exhaustion and burnout (2020).
Although we can turn off notifications and sounds, the expectation to be contactable twenty-four-seven remains. These electronic ties are the opposite of umbilical cords: instead of giving life, they suck it out of us. The time to break the addiction to our man-made dopamine-infused lifestyle is overdue. Now is the time to restore our connection to nature.
Try this experiment: if you carry a smartphone, work on a computer, or spend time watching television, recognize you are creating an environment that is charged with positive ions. Despite their name, this is not good news as you are manufacturing the opposite of the negatively charged ions that nature supplies. Now imagine how you would feel to be away from your computer for a whole day, a week, a month, or longer. Next, consider how fresh you feel after a walk in nature or an indulgent soak in the bath or a long shower.
A review of daily activities normally reveals an imbalance between toxic positively charged ions and the life enhancing negative ones.
That is why an hour or two a week walking in a natural environment makes a difference in how we feel and perform. It is why holidays are restorative. We need to reboot and rebalance our bodies by reconnecting to the negative ions freely supplied by the natural world.
This insight brought Green Adelaide and the Appleton Institute into partnership in 2021 to run a Nature Prescription experiment. They wanted to explore how green spaces can improve a person’s health and well-being. The trial involved health professionals providing suitable patients with written advice or a ‘nature prescription’ for activities in nature. Two objectives from the trial that stood out were:
- to reduce barriers to nature contact such as cost, access, time poverty, and skill, and to connect participants with the environment to improve their health/wellbeing and environmental stewardship; and
- raise awareness of the role of nature in the promotion and prevention of mental health and wellbeing (Healthy Parks Healthy People Framework 2016-2021)
Another example is the German company Green City Solutions. They use moss filters as the lungs of the city to naturally filter out harmful pollution. https://greencitysolutions.de/en/
Now consider how often you refresh, reenergize, and reboot your system by connecting with nature to access the essential negative ions. Are you ready to start afresh?
Howard, P, J. (2000) The Owners Manual for the Brain: Everyday Applications from Mind Brain Research.
Gregory N. Bratman, Gretchen C. Daily, Benjamin J. Levy, James
J.Gross, The benefits of nature experience: Improved affect and cognition, Landscape and Urban Planning, Volume 138, 2015, Pages 41-50, ISSN 0169-2046,
McCorry LK. Physiology of the autonomic nervous system. Am J Pharm Educ. 2007 Aug 15;71(4):78. doi: 10.5688/aj710478.
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Kotera, Y., Richardson, M. & Sheffield, D. Effects of Shinrin-Yoku (Forest Bathing) and Nature Therapy on Mental Health: a Systematic Review and Meta-analysis. Int J Ment Health Addiction 20, 337–361 (2022).
A Preliminary Report on “The Human Connection: Investigating The Effect of Enhanced Patient Connection on Provider Burnout” (4156)
Yaowaree Leavell, Jessica Tran, Mary Sun, Michelle Fabian, LauraStein
Neurology Apr 2020, 94 (15 Supplement) 4156;
Green Adelaide In partnership with Appleton Institute, SA NATURE PRESCRIPTION TRIAL (2021) Final Technical Report https://cdn.environment.sa.gov.au/greenadelaide/images/SA- Nature-prescription-trial-report-published-Feb-2022.pdf