Forget the woo-woo, rewilding wellness is where it’s at

We get it, wellness trends come and go quicker than Tik Tok stars, but this one is a keeper. Felicity Harley investigates ‘rewilding’: a must-try in the midst of a pandemic.

Did you ever go camping as a kid—or as an adult, for that matter—perched your bum on a log around the campfire with someone on a guitar playing sweet music, and as you gazed at the magical sky, felt a deep sense of quietude?

Well, that camping trip in your teens is what wellness devotees today are calling human ‘rewilding’: immersing yourself in nature and reaping its health benefits. In a world where we’re in and out of lockdown as often as we “add to cart” at Lululemon, we’re seeking time in nature like never before.

The term ‘rewilding’ is officially used in environmental conservation, encouraging humans to pull back on conservation efforts so that the pre-human ecosystem, the natural state, can be restored. More recently, the wellness warriors have adopted it, throwing the world “human” in front, and giving it a wellness spin.

“Rewilding means looking to our natural world to reconnect to ways of living that are more in sync with our human biology,” life coach Tony Riddle told Country & Town House magazine. Think forest bathing, earthing, ice baths. Sure, it might sound woo-woo, but studies prove there are mind-blowing benefits derived from nature.

The health hits start here…

I’m sure you know first-hand the wellbeing hit you get from swimming in the ocean, hiking a bush track or staring at the clouds while lying on grass. Well, let me give you some science to make it even sweeter. There are a plethora of studies backing-up the therapeutic benefits of nature, but this study from University of East Anglia, UK, takes the healthy cake.

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Researchers gathered evidence from 140 studies of more than 290 million people (yep, you read that right) from 20 countries, Australia included, and concluded that spending time outside and living close to nature had far-reaching health benefits.

Time in what they described as “green space” reduced the risk of high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, premature death, preterm birth and stress.

Lead author Caoimhe Twohig-Bennett said: “Spending time in nature certainly makes us feel healthier, but until now the impact on our long-term wellbeing hasn’t been fully understood.”

So let’s take this one step further. It’s all well and good to step outside and breathe the (somewhat) fresh air of your city/town/suburb, but by committing to a period of time in nature—a weekend, a week or longer—you get a double whammy of health benefits.

Not only are you reaping the health rewards of immersing yourself in green space for a longer period of time, you’re also stepping away from your daily stress and switching off. A double dose of wellness, perhaps?

How to rewild yourself

I get it, we all can’t make for an Amazon jungle and live a Bear Grylls existence for a few weeks. In fact, some of us may be in lockdown with a 30-minute window for exercise. But you can bring the human rewilding experience into your life today or when planning your next vacation. Here, a few suggestions…

Go forest bathing

This simply means spending time anywhere you can be fully surrounded by greenery, walking aimlessly (no devices), and using your senses to consciously connect to the surroundings. Hear the sounds of the birds, touch the trees, smell the crisp fresh air. Take your time! The Japanese call it ‘shinrin-yoku’ and have made this scientifically-proven nature therapy part of their national health program. Find a park nearby or book a trip to a nearby national park.

Try earthing

I’ll hand it over to Gwyneth Paltrow’s Goop to explain earthing, literally meaning walking outdoors on grass, dirt or sand in bare feet (it’s also known as grounding, FYI).

“Earthing therapy rests on the intuitive assumption that connecting to the energy of the planet is healthy for our souls and bodies…there’s also a more scientific angle to the practice, which posits that access to the abundant supply of free electrons in the (subtly negatively charged) ground can help neutralise free radicals—if only we would take off our shoes and access them.” Still with us…? Earthing is free, it’s easy and if it gives you a wellbeing boost, then why not?

Book a nature retreat

There are plenty of these popping up around Australia. In the NSW Snowy Mountains, Thredbo is offering yoga, hiking and meditation retreats. Adventure group, Women Want Adventure, promises to “empower, inspire and connect” and has something for every woman from trekking the Walls of Jerusalem in Tasmania to sea kayaking around Ningaloo Reef. Down in Daylesford, you can submerge yourself in healing waters, or head to Kakadu while learning about Aboriginal culture.

Grow a garden

Bring rewilding wellness into your backyard by growing your own vegetables. If you don’t have space to dig up a patch, try a nifty little creation like Vegepod. Bunnings also has an impressive range. It makes growing a garden easy, but you’ll get a double dose of health benefits from only spending time outdoors, but eating freshly grown produce, too. Now there’s no woo-woo in that.

Felicity Harley’s book, Balance & Other B.S: How to hold it together when you’re doing it all is out now. Follow her on Instagram for more.