It\’s Goddess Month! Nurture Your Brain With Nature

First, what is Goddess Month, anyway?

Here’s a little back history on Goddess Month was something my Head Elf, Becky, and I dreamed of years ago as kind of just a fun silly thing. But, in the years that have followed it’s kind of morphed into something more! The idea behind Goddess Month came to us because are both so busy during January that the first month of the New Year was a blur. So we wanted to recapture the shiny New Year celebration in our own unique way. We both also weren\’t huge fans of Valentine’s Day, so instead, we replaced it with our own holiday that lasts the whole month instead of one day.

Simply put, Goddess Month is a celebration of self. For twenty-eight days, it’s an excuse to do a lot of self-care to be nice to yourself in all sorts of different ways. It can be a staycation away from home, a trip to the spa, cuddling up with chocolate and a good book, or our absolute favorite–spending time in nature.

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Nurture Your Brain With Nature

What have you done lately to nurture your brain? If you’re feeling stressed and anxious by modern life going by at the speed of light, you might want to seek out some green space and take a slow walk or just sit for a while and observe nature. Your brain will thank you.

Being in the presence of nature is good for your mental health, your physical health, and your well-being. You’ll experience benefits from nature whether it’s in the woods, in a mountain setting, at a beach, or even in an urban green space. The Japanese have a word for the practice of walking mindfully through a wooded or green area. It’s known as shinrin-yoku or forest bathing.

Your Brain On Nature

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Scientific studies demonstrate the benefits of ecotherapy—the term used in the western world for healing through immersion in nature. These studies show evidence of beneficial effects on the human brain and improvement in mental health by regular exposure to natural environments. Simply put, you could improve the quality of your life by starting a regular ecotherapy practice.

A slow walk through a natural environment reduces your cortisol, the stress hormone. Studies have demonstrated that being in nature or having exposure to nature (even just looking at a park through a window) has beneficial effects on focus, attention, creativity, feelings of energy and vitality as well as fewer reported feelings of anxiety and depression.

Your Brain and The Sunshine Vitamin

Exposure to sunshine while experiencing the open and green outdoors can increase your levels of the sunshine vitamin, Vitamin D. While it’s true it’s good practice to wear sunscreen to avoid the long-term detrimental effects of sun exposure, even a short stint in the sun can help increase your Vitamin D level and the mood-boosting effects on your brain.

Your brain and central nervous system contain receptors for Vitamin D. This vitamin also aids the enzymes in the brain and nervous system to produce neurotransmitters, the chemical that allows brain cells to ‘talk’ to each other. Vitamin D also promotes nerve growth, thereby helping control the formation of new nerve cells. Additionally, Vitamin D protects your brain cells from inflammatory reactions. Recent studies show inflammation occurs in neurodegenerative conditions, such as dementia.

Your Brain and Blood Pressure

There is ample evidence that regular exposure to nature lowers blood pressure. The effects of unchecked hypertension on the brain include stroke, blood clots, mini-stroke or transient ischemia attacks (TIA), and impaired cognitive function or even dementia. Any effort to help lower blood pressure to a more normal range is beneficial to all parts of the body as well as your brain.

Your Brain Waves on Nature

David Strayer, a cognitive psychologist at the University of Utah, has been studying the effect of nature on the brain’s command center, the pre-frontal cortex. In our present-day high technology society, the pre-frontal cortex is over-worked, over-stimulated, and over-used. The result is that we’re distracted, unable to make decisions, and suffer from brain fog.

Soaking up the calm and peaceful surroundings in nature allows the prefrontal cortex to relax and recover. The evidence for this is seen in the brain wave studies done by Strayer. Subjects immersed in nature show calmer midline frontal theta waves on EEG study while similarly matched controls in an urban setting lacked these types of relaxed brain signals.

Your Brain Likes Nature

The evidence is clear that nature–the wide-open outdoors is good for your brain. The next step is for society to embrace this knowledge, preserve the wide-open natural environments and encourage a regular practice of ecotherapy.

As a true believer in the healing power of nature, Evans Bowen turned to the most epic of outdoor adventure to center herself and gain clarity in life. In 2014, she walked the 500 miles of the Camino to Santiago, Spain with her 20-year-old daughter, Alexandra. This 40-day pilgrimage inspired this book. Evans is also the first one to note that a pilgrimage does not have to involve a trip across a sea or a journey to a faraway place.

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The first part of Evans\’ book was created to be a guide for the physical journey, either around the world or close to home. Evans answers the questions of why taking a pilgrimage is so meaningful and what \”is\” a sacred site. Included is a step by step guide to help readers take a pilgrimage from the first whisperings of a Call, preparing, the journey and integration of an experience into a life-changing.

\”You don’t have to go halfway across the world to have a spiritual experience, unless, of course, that’s exactly what your soul is longing for.” Evans shared. “With each step, every mile, each encounter you go deeper into yourself to find that meaning, to live the more authentic life you desire, to have no one to please or be accountable to but yourself.”

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The second half of the book is 40 days of reflections to help readers and travelers find meaning in their journey and discovering their authentic self. Each day is written to take the reader into their heart, unfold new experiences and recognize the knowledge that brings a new understanding of their life and their world.

 

Pilgrimage: A Modern Seeker’s Guide is both an external journey to a place longed for and an internal journey to the center of our most authentic self.

About The Book

A tradition of all religions, Pilgrimage is a journey to sacred sites as an act of devotion and dedication.  It is time to expand the definition of Pilgrimage to inform modern life. Taking time to visit a place near home or around the globe, to open the mind and heart to the Divine, brings healing and new meaning to life. Pilgrimage is both an external journey to a place longed for and an internal journey to the center of our most authentic self.

Each part of the journey, from the first desire to visit a holy place, to the return home to integrate the experience, becomes the pilgrimage to expand our world, both body, and soul. Combining practical steps for the physical journey and 40 days of inspiration for the spirit, this guidebook gives this time-honored journey to the Divine to inform the whole person in our increasingly fragmented world.

\”Excellent book about the history and the importance of pilgrimages. Bowen relates how going on a pilgrimage with her daughter brought her immeasurable peace and a sense of security to her soul. She lists all the different sites where people flock to reconnect with whatever divine being they are searching for. She lists a forty day challenge for a pilgrim to consider as they take their journey. Bowen writes in an easy manner, her observations are simple and to the point. She stresses the value of a pilgrimage at any time in a person\’s life. Whether they are in a difficult situation or lost, a reflective trip like this is a great investment to a person\’s soul. Bowen loves her subject and her devotion shines through on every page. This is a thoughtful book because in the end the journey to get to know oneself can start with you and can be done in your own backyard.\” author, Carole P. Roman

About The Author

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Evans Bowen is a self-described explorer, seeker, student, teacher, wife, and mom. She is also the creator of The Perpetual Pilgrim, a travel blog inspired by her life of sacred travel.  But at the core of it all, she is someone who is always discovering, learning, and growing. Evans has a BA in Education from the University of Tennessee and is currently working on an MA in Depth Psychology from Pacifica Graduate Institute. When not visiting sacred sites, she lives a quiet life in an old farmhouse in rural east Tennessee with her husband, two cats, and lots of books.

Readers can connect with Evans on her site, The Perpetual Pilgrim or on Facebook.

 

 

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