Time to step out of the digital realm and plant your bare feet in some lush grass.
While working indoors, particularly at a computer hour after hour – you can easily spend too much time in the “digital world” and not enough time in your natural, physical environment.
If you wonder why this matters, let me ask you this: how do you feel these days? Are you anxious? Burned out? Do you have mysterious ailments that your doctor says are stress-related, yet gym workouts, a better diet, and medications are not improving the way you feel?
Perhaps it’s time to take a walk on the rewild side.
Our guest today offers a new approach to health coaching that involves getting back in contact with nature. Shawn Slade explains why “nature connection” is a growing therapeutic practice – offering those willing to dip their toes into a nearby lake this amazingly restorative experience that leads to happiness and a serene sense of overall well-being.
In this podcast, Shawn reveals expertise in nature contact, ecotherapy, ecopsychology, and rewilding.
Shawn began his career as a traditional health coach and then shifted into nature connecting – he is now an emerging scholar in nature contact, nature connection, and human health.
As a lifelong scholar, Shawn holds degrees in business and economics (2006), political science (2008), a Master of Science (2014). He is currently a Ph.D. candidate in health promotion at Western University in London, Ontario.
Shawn is also a serial entrepreneur. He is the co-founder of Booch Organic Kombucha and does research consultations for Exercise is Medicine Canada. He is also a nutrition and weight loss instructor for Canfit Pro, a part-time professor of health promotion at Fanshawe College. Shawn delivers numerous speaking engagements with ACSM, CSEP, and other academic conferences and trade shows.
In this podcast, we cover:
- What are eco-therapy, ecopsychology, and rewilding?
- The health benefits from nature connecting
- How city dwellers can connect with nature
- Shawn’s “dark night of the soul” vision quest experience
- Why “micro exposures” are a good starting point to rewilding
- Shawn’s future vision of the nature connection field
- Why nature connecting is perfect for people in extensive lockdowns
- Why Shawn does not want the government leading the nature connecting movement
“A lot of research shows nature to be a saving grace for many people.”
Several published research papers provide evidence of nature’s therapeutic power.
One of the most vital benefits of nature contacting, or rewilding, is stress reduction – something many people deal with now thanks to our modern, fast-paced world and the added stresses from the pandemic. Lockdowns, fear, economic pressure, isolation, loneliness, and depression reached epidemic proportions aside from the virus.
When humans are working on a computer or digging a ditch, or whatever task they focus on, the brain goes into the beta brainwaves, which help us focus. But as we all know, you cannot maintain focus indefinitely.
People need time to relax. Nature connecting puts our brains in the alpha brainwave or the gamma brainwave, which are much more calm and relaxed.
Shawn goes into a lot of the science backing the practice of nature connecting, including how rewilding drops our cortisol levels.
Question: What’s the next cool thing in the health industry?
Answer: Nature-based interventions.
Shawn knows the positive impact connecting with nature brings to the soul, as he experienced a “vision quest” out in the woods for three days that significantly changed his life. (He shares that experience here, and it involves a wolf. You don’t want to miss that.)
Shawn talks about how nature exploration leads to self-discovery, sparking your creativity and gets you excited about life. With the spark nature provides us at a soul level, you can ride that wave to more happiness and health.
Even city dwellers can receive rewilding benefits through small doses of experiencing nature.
Shawn is so passionate about nature connecting. He had to defend his doctoral dissertation paper on this very topic the next day!
What benefits await you when you begin exploring nature? Tune in to this episode and discover the ways of rewilding. Shawn is about to become a professor of nature connection. You can’t get more authoritative on a topic than that.
Listen to one of the top experts on the planet – find out which health and wellness surprises you can find at your nearest park, beach, or forest.
Check out more about Shawn Slade
Rewild My Bio on Telegram
Rewild My Bio on Instagram
Book recommendation from Shawn: The Nature Fix: Why Nature Makes Us Happier, Healthier, and More Creative, by Florence Williams
Read The Episode Transcript:
Wade Lightheart: Good morning. Good afternoon. And good evening. It's weighty. Lightheart from BiOptimizers with another edition of the awesome health podcast. And today we're going to talk about the health benefits of nature, contact and nature connection. And we're also going to talk about what echo therapy is, echo psychology, rewilding, get that one. And how did you get into a nature connection research in human rewilding with none other than Shawn Slade, who is preparing a PhD defense in the health benefits of nature. And he's got, of course, Shawn is a very interesting character. He is the co-founder of Booch organic kombucha. He's a research consultant for exercise and medicine is medicine, Canada. He's a nutrition and weight loss instructor for can fit pro a part-time professor of health promotion at Fenn Shaw college. And he's had a bunch of speaking engagements at the ACSS and the CSEP and other academic conferences around the trade shows. And he joins us from London, Ontario. I believe it is. That's all right. Shawn Slade: Hey, thanks for having me. Yeah, I'm in port Stanley here, right on the north shore of lake Erie. Beautiful sunny day. So just got back from my walk and yeah, a few of those endeavors I no longer do, but yeah, I'm totally focused on this nature connection research and psych to talk to you about it today. So thanks for having Speaker 3: Me. So let's let's, Wade Lightheart: Let's talk about this particular, these things that we dove into so we can get our listeners up to speed. If you could break down what echo therapy is, echo psychology and rewilding. Shawn Slade: Yeah. So, I mean, we're kind of going across the full spectrum of all different ways. People like to engage or at least like interact with the living world around us. Right. So eco psychology specifically, or eco therapies are kind of born out of eco psychology and eco psychology is essentially the study of both the environment and how that impacts our psyche and vice versa. Right. So basically looking at things like our relationship with nature, which is essentially the definition of nature connection, which is what I study. Right. so yeah, as far as an academic pursuit, you kind of touched on the one side of things, which is that yeah, that eco psychology piece, eco therapies, being anything from like say forest therapy to different like public health interventions that exist around the world, trying to get people out and involved in nature. Shawn Slade: You know, I'm thinking of one specifically that took place across the world. It was all orchestrated through social media and it was called rewild your life. And it had individuals basically get out in nature for 30 days for 30 minutes. And researchers actually you know, took collect the data and found a whole bunch of benefits to health from these types of interventions. And people are really you know, they're just using local nature in their nearby environment and actually engaging with it. So rather than just passing by that tree or that squirrel that's in your backyard all the time, actually noticing it and just taking a second to maybe reflect to notice nature's beauty all sorts of different ways we can connect with nature when we're in it, right? So that's the one side of things. That's the one hat I like to wear, which is the more academic side. Shawn Slade: The other side is the rewilding or a human rewilding lifestyle or Lifeway, if you will. And I mean, human rewilding is essentially a philosophy that kind of fosters nature connection. That's the way I see it. It kind of allows or facilitates increased nature connection. So I find that, you know, as we go forward, it could be potentially a way for us to undo the domestication of modern civilization and all the negative health impacts that come with that. Right? So urbanization increasing use of technology, industrialization, destruction of loss, of biodiversity. All these things are essentially creating. What's kind of known as an extinction of experience in some ways. And I find that this rewilding Lifeway is just a way to kind of undo again, that domestication and it adds you know, I'd say it adds resilience to the individual, to our individual biology, to our mental psyche. Shawn Slade: It adds a resilience to our communities and the way we interact with one another to, you know, buy and sell goods and things like that. And honestly, it's, it's a, it's a great way that we can actually go and heal mother earth. Right. and there is different aspects of rewilding. I mean, there is the ecological or environmental rewilding, which kind of looks at restoring landscapes and putting species at risk back to these landscapes. So there is that aspect, but I'm much more interested given my life's work in health. I'm much more interested in like human rewilding side and what that can do to essentially return life to a more free-willed or a self-willed state, because the word itself rewild does mean Reese or return, right. To in the wild meaning self-willed or having more free will and who doesn't want a little bit more of that in this last year. Right. Just a little more self-will and control over our health. And I mean, just thinking of the lockdowns, like not being able to go outside essentially. Right. And how, I mean, we are nature. So to cut ourselves off from the nature and local ecologies and environment that essentially defines who we are I don't think that's a very good health promotion policy at all. So, yeah. This Wade Lightheart: Is really interesting. I just recently was on the horizons Canada site of, for the Canadian government and Canada has implemented some of the most totalitarian lockdown policies in the entire world with the pandemic. And we do know that comorbidities involved in, in deaths from pandemic is obesity in age. And then we haven't fully fleshed out the consequences of these restrictions. And, you know, on particularly though on psychology, but going to this exploring bio digital convergence, which you can check out on the policy horizons Canada of the government of Canada. And there's a frightening, it's a very wild summary, which I think would be in, in some ways oppositional to what your avatar advocating. So for example, the, the, the, the emergence of bio digital convergence, according to the federal government of Canada is full physical integration of biological and digital entities, the co-evolution of biological and digital technologies and the conceptual convergence of biological and digital systems, which involve changing human beings, our minds bodies and behaviors changing, or creating other organisms, altering ecosystems sense store process, and transcend duration, the manage of biological innovation and the structure manager, and a supply chains, including the development of new hybrid species. Wade Lightheart: Now it's pretty wild. And I'm encouraging people to check out that these are actually policies that are being thrown around in the world, which seemed to stand almost in opposition to what you're suggesting here. What are some of the benefits that your able to determine? Cause I know you're defending a PhD paper on this thesis and you have a lot of research about the benefits of getting more integrated in nature, as opposed to less cause in this. And just to set this up, if you actually read this article, it's talking about people waking up and having digital dragonflies that you're putting like that you're feeding with digital niche. It's like living in a video game of the nature is become a video game and you're generating the sensory experience or the, or the, the chemically manufactured equivalent of what nature has done over a billion years. What do you think about that kind of stuff? Shawn Slade: So I will, I will get into the health benefits of nature cause I can speak to that. But first I'll kind of comment as to what you're saying is this whole technocratic top-down approach to engineering a Lifeway. That's not anything that I think anybody who's really into nature connection or rewilding, or just going for a walk onto the beach, you know, nature lovers. I don't think anybody's wants to sign up for that. Right. yeah, no, honestly, my, my thoughts on that are, are twofold. One I'm quite cognizant in the fact that as you know, a PhD who's right now publish, it's going to be publishing a paper. Sometimes our papers can get picked up by individuals and use for whatever means they want. My intent is to not lead towards a future where we have to plug in a simulator screen for one hour, one hour, every five weeks. Shawn Slade: Let's just say to get a glimpse of nature because we can't go anywhere and get it right. So that is not. And that thing that happens actually a lot in a lot of nature, connection research, a lot of nature contact or nature-based interventions where they're trying to increase health and wellbeing. There has, there is some research that actually looks at say like a simulator that will look at a nature scene, compare that to a simulation of say an urban scene and then measure mood and you know, cortisol and all sorts of things like this. And that's problematic in many ways, which we can get to cause some of the benefits of nature come from that sensorial activation that we get while we're in nature. Right. So sights sounds, smells, touch, feel the you know, what, we can't actually see that feed, that feeling that we get when we look out over an expansive landscape. Shawn Slade: Right? So, I mean, I think that's I think that's alarming, right? And I think that it's tough for a guy like me who has a podcast tell people to get outdoors and you post something on social media saying vitamin D is good for your immune system. And it gets censored in this day and age, right? I mean, I've done, I've done everything. I mean, I, I'm a very blessed individual and I've had a lot of great experiences as you mentioned. And honestly, I, it's kind of shocking all of a sudden to be at the, almost at the end of my PhD and be censored and, you know, sent messages by whichever a sensor gram or tube is, you know, saying don't post things about vitamin D. This has not been, you know, this has been proven in factual or from our, which, which Wade Lightheart: Is totally fallacious research as well in right now for resistance to, for example, contracting the virus in the pandemic, vitamin D levels of bumps, certain points. And it depends on how you monitor that in different countries have been proven to be one of the, one of the definable core relations between people who do not get sick from the virus and people who do, how is that possibly refutable let alone, who is the person that are fact checking this information and what is their agenda and what are they trying to move forward? And when I see these things from the governments, like such as Canada, which you most people would think that Canada is a relatively benign country and we see this kind of digital technical technocracy, what are you seeing? Switching gears just a little bit, let's go into the area of what you do know in, in these areas of health benefits of nature that you are preparing your defense from, from your research. Shawn Slade: Right? No, and thanks for that. And it's, it's best to focus on the positive. And I mean, I'm glad we kind of situated everything we're talking about in the current times, right. Because that's just, it, we have to, as rewilding or someone who's in nature, I look around at what's in my environment and I make use of that, right. So there's no sense of me, you know, I get lost in the woods that I go on a back country trip to look around and wish things were different around me. I use what's in my local environment to survive, right? So here's the landscape we are in. So that said nature, connection, and nature contact. There's been a lot of research actually showing that nature has been the saving grace for many people and has helped people with mental health problems throughout the pandemic. Shawn Slade: There's actually a few papers that have been out saying how important nature therapy will be going forward. So here we are, and I'm going to, you know, thanks for that. And we'll take a positive spin. I mean, the biggest thing right now that comes to mind with the benefits of nature is stress reduction, right? So w we, we have been under a lot of stress and even without the pandemic, you know, modern times are very, very fast, right? So a good thing about nature is that I guess two of the main theories around nature's health benefits come from around the early 1990s and Steven and Rachel Kaplan are professors at the university of Michigan. And they created what's called attentional restoration theory. So art and attention restoration theory essentially says that when we're doing the day-to-day tasks, so when we're on the computer or doing whatever it is that we do we're using, you know, focused attention and that has a short life span or a little bit of a shelf life. Shawn Slade: So to speak until you run out of it in the day, right nature. On the other hand, it allows us this opportunity to, to gain what's called soft fascination. And we focus our awareness, but we're focusing in a different way. So essentially when we're on the computer, or if I'm writing a paper or what have you, I'm in those beta brainwaves, and I'm doing amazing things that we can do with that frequency of our, our being. Whereas when we're in nature, we're in the alpha brainwave or the gamma brainwave say, which is a lot more calm and relaxed. So we evolved with nature, these theories. So art is one stress reduction theory and other popular theory, which is basically saying that as we are in non-threatening environments, since we evolved with nature and relied on them for resources to survive, we actually are able to be restored. Shawn Slade: And there's tons of research looking at, you know, cortisol, different biomarkers of sorts that are measuring nature's benefits when we are actually in it. So those two are the really big ones that I think have get most of the attention anyways, in the scientific literature. The other that I think is a little bit more exciting and something I'm more into given my interest in fermented foods and whatnot is immune regulation, right? So by having, or by interacting with biodiverse natural areas that are, let's say healthy soil, for example, tons of different microbes in the soil, we're actually able to receive a benefit from that, right? And by protecting and protecting those areas that are biodiverse, we're able to not only receive health benefits, but also protect, you know, species at risk certain ecosystems and all that. So that's the good thing about nature connection is that as we grow in nature, connection through experiences in nature, through connecting, or let's say emotionally connecting with the beauty of nature, we're actually able to have certain health benefits that will allow us to gain a greater appreciation for nature. Shawn Slade: And then we essentially want to protect it. So I kind of went in from, yeah, some of the benefits of nature, some of the theories, and then yet, like they say, nature connection is its own beast now. And that's where my interest lies because we're seeing that nature connection correlates with a whole bunch of different health and wellbeing indicators, things like vitality purpose in life, meaning in life. And these, I mean, having essentially a tr a high trait level of nature, connectedness is almost as similar as saying having high income or having a, you know, university or college degree when it comes to our health and wellbeing. So it's important stuff, and it's, again, all under the umbrella of eco psychology and kind of newly being studied which is exciting to be kind of diving into it now. Wade Lightheart: Okay. I think this is a fascinating topic and certainly presents a, I think, a strong counter to some of these kind of the, the rapid and unmitigated integration into kind of, of digitally driven virtual reality and abandoning the traditional aspects of of our evolutionary habitats, which have supported. And we know, for example, if you have any species and you take them out of their natural habitat, very few of the species have the ability to adapt and humans being highly adaptable to a multiple, we, we S we don't know what the consequences of this rapid digital immersion, particularly, you know, people living in boxes, interacting with people through computers and screens and not interacting with nature. And I think you know, Paul Stamets th the great mushroom researcher who has taken mycelium and explained all the benefits of that and how it's, it's, it's a connecting force between virtually the entire ecosystem, who knows how many different things are going on in nature that haven't been studied or recognized or integrated as part of public policy, or just general human health and wellbeing. What are some of the things that you've been studying, particularly on the benefits of like, how much kind of rewilding time, or being out in nature is able to exude benefits for the population and how does someone best program that into their lives if they are in an urban area, or they're not, don't have immediate access to, to those aspects of living a full and robust life. Yeah. Shawn Slade: I mean, I guess first and foremost, I think we can get benefits from urban nature. Right. and I do want to say that, like, it doesn't take a scientist or a PhD to go out there and experience the benefits of nature. I think a big part, I'm not your typical topic talking head when it comes to this stuff. Right. I really I've spent I've had two years dark night of the soul where I had to do some healing work in the forest, right. So I have experienced within some great depths and firsthand what the potential is to do. So get out there and be creative and just get out and, and engage with nature, appreciate nature, talk to the nature listen to nature with all your being. I think these things are you know, we sometimes look outside of ourselves these days for all the magic, you know, within health, right. Shawn Slade: We're always looking for the next cool thing. And I think the art inspiring ness of nature and just how beautiful that is. That's just our own exploration of that leads to self discovery. And from there, we know what it is that kind of sparks us or lights us up. And then from there, we're a lot, it's easier to be happy and healthy, right. So just get out there and find what it is for you. And I think nature is a great tool for that. Now that said to speak specifically to like, is there a dose kind of what you're saying, is there a dose or a setting or an activity that we can do? And I mean, that's what my research here, this paper that I'll be defending tomorrow is talking about. So it was a scoping review, looking at nature, connection, health, and wellbeing within nature-based interventions. Shawn Slade: So there was 12 studies that are included in this review. And I'm, I mean, essentially there is no one specific framework yet, because it's so hard to define nature what you call nature might be different from me. Right. So so that said, this is the exciting part. If you're into, you know, scientific research and you want to spend you know, a long career studying these types of things, which I think there's possibility for. So, I mean, there is some work and I'm gonna forget the name of the book. I believe it's called the nature, fix Florence Williams. If I'm not mistaken, it's worth taking a look for our listeners out there because she kind of lays out what they're, I believe there is a dose dependent framework that was laid out there. And it is similar to some of the things that I've read. Shawn Slade: Now, I mean, some of the work around this is coming from Australia, and what we're looking at is a balance between the amount of time you spend in nature, the activity and the setting. All right. So let's start with what most common studies look at is nearby nature. So nature close to the home. And since most people live in urban centers these days that's the majority of the research. So in little as like, I think it's a 10 day study showed that just by going and noticing nature three times a day, this is a study out of Vancouver, British Columbia. And just by noticing nature three times, or noticing the good things in nature three times a day for two weeks participants in there increased all sorts of different well-being markers. So meaning in life vitality mood, I believe like positive mood and whatnot. Shawn Slade: And that's the amazing thing. It really doesn't take much, like, I think what's exciting about this, or when I look at it as nature as medicine, or like forest medicine per se, is how vast all these different exercises you can do. I mean, just if, you know, mindfulness meditation, for example, just take those tenants of mindfulness of a mindfulness-based stress reduction, right? So like, non-judgemental open awareness, things like that, take that practice into nature. And by doing that and making, connecting with nature, the practice you know, we can receive a whole host of benefits that we wouldn't even receive if we were on our cell phones. So that's kind of neat, right? Like, it's just, it's just about if you are going to go for a walk in nature be mindful of it. Right. Appreciate it. Some of the other things we can do is like have compassion towards nature. Shawn Slade: So, you know, if you see a turtle trying to cross the road just the other day, I saw a huge snapping turtle squished on the road. And I don't know the story there, but like, I'm thinking to myself, stop shoot the thing off the road, pick it up, help it along its way. Right. Just things like that can actually increase nature connection. Right. or if you're building a home, for example, trying to source sustainably, harvested lumber, all of these things, having compassion and having like, just, just taking a second to actually think about these natural products and things that come into our house and where they came from and how they're sourced all things like that can increase nature connection. So I mean, I could, I could keep going in regards to, you know, what specifically we can do. I, I really do think that there is to answer your question about dose dependency. I believe five hours a month is what's recommended. And if you're doing, let's say I believe one of the studies that I reviewed showed that participants receive more benefit from nature if they did 30 minutes a day, rather than less. So, Wade Lightheart: Yeah. Other than going out once for five hours in the, in the, in the exactly once a month saying, oh, I'm doing my nature hit. It's more frequency is as much as duration. Shawn Slade: Yeah. You can say that. Exactly. And I think at the same time, you can, there is some that book that I mentioned that the nature fix speaks specifically about research that looked at just going on like a good expedition, maybe once a month or so as well, if you don't have opportunity to get in contact with them, you know, say you're downtown city and you don't have much nature. Cause me, I, I grew up in rural Southwestern Ontario. And when I live in a city, it was never quite enough. So I had to do those little adventures out into the wilderness. So again, finding what you like specifically, some people might not like the deep woods, they might rather prefer beaches. Right. So then head to the beach, but finding that place that really speaks to your soul again is how I always like to say it, that's probably the best way going forward. And other than that, yeah. Like, honestly, just being in it, being mindful when you're there and seeing what works for you, I think Wade Lightheart: This is really powerful. Cause I always look at it you know, and it's kind of a new emergence since we've been so immersed in nature our whole lives, but now we're being kind of taken out of it and people are growing up without that connection. They're born in cities live in cities. They don't know what it's like to be out into the nature stuff. And many people when they do get they're profoundly influenced and, and have no way of really describing or integrating it. But I look at rewilding as potentially very much like I would a training program and that is you have to, okay, we're going to set aside a bit of time where I'm going to either, you know, it could be as simple as getting some bonsai trees in your house and, and tending to a bonsai tree and maybe spending, you know, two or three times a week, just sitting in the park for 30 minutes, a local park, and then maybe on the weekend, once a week or even once a month going out into a plan family trip or with your loved ones or whatever to say, Hey, look, you know, this Sunday, we're going out hiking in the Hills or we're going to the beach for the day, or we're going to, whatever that we're going for a forest walk or whatever it happens to be. Wade Lightheart: Have you thought much about that this will be kind of a, almost a career for people to help develop the capabilities to integrate with nature? Shawn Slade: Yeah. It sounds kind of crazy sometimes when you think about it, but it's very much needed and that is the way I kind of look at it and kind of it's where I'm poised to, you know, jump up out of my PhD and, and back into the world of helping individuals. And you say it just quite perfectly, you know, that I come from a fitness background as a, you know, strength coach and holistic lifestyle coach and yeah, like, honestly, like setting it into a program, essentially, if you are a health coach, let's say for example or if you're a personal trainer and actually we're getting workouts outside and things like that actually scheduling in, like you say, it's like, where I know I'm going to be getting this deep nature excursion going here in a couple of weeks. And then from there I'm going to tend to my garden in the backyard and I'm going to get out and hit the beach, you know, for beach walks once a day or something like that. And honestly trying to stick to that and just, just seeing how your life changes. I don't think people, we often underestimate the healing power and the amazingness that can come from nature. Right. And we, we start eating differently or when we start exercising and it's like, we start like noticing like, you know, Hey, we're feeling good, but we actually probably don't pay much attention to how we feel if we say miss our normal walks and things like that. Right. Yeah. So yeah, I I'll, Wade Lightheart: I'll give a share personal story that a number of years ago, my business partner who spilled, I think 13 or 14 digitally integrated companies is, is he's grown up in the digital world and did very well. We we were meeting and he had been inside for three or four days straight dealing with all these kinds of digital worlds. And we were sitting on his couch and he looked out the window and he's like, yeah, man, it was raining in Vancouver, Canada. And he's like, kind of looks like the rain in the matrix. And I said, dude, do you realize that nature is now looking like a movie to you because you're so deeply integrated. And I suggested to him, there was a little pond it's called Stanley park. He go, I said, why don't you? I said, you and I, why don't we go around Stanley park? Wade Lightheart: The, this little, little goon by his house and there's docks and there's a little pond and there's trees and all this stuff. And he started doing that and he said was one of the most powerful experiences he had in regards to like how he physiologically felt. Cause he had been used to feeling certain things physically, physically as a trainer and as a coach. And he's like, he had lost this connection to nature. And he said it was, it was transformative for him in that point. And he, it became something that he was really passionate about. He would love going down there and sit in there and watch the ducks, for example, squabbling and doing their things. And Speaker 3: There's, there's what is maybe some of the neurochemical responses Wade Lightheart: Or brainwave states that's happening for people when they are integrated with nature. And how does that differ from their data? You kind of touched on it a little, but Shawn Slade: Maybe you got some more. Yeah. Well that's just, it it's, it's interesting to hear that story because I think we do have all that, that natural affinity for nature, right. To connect with nature. I mean, that's what Edward Wilson's biophilia hypothesis is essentially saying is that we all have an innate, psychological and physiological need to connect with nature because we evolved from it and that's, we S we relied on it to survive all the resources we receive from nature. Right. So, I mean, I, yeah, I did already touch on those brainwave states that we get into, but I mean yeah, we, we can have, like, we can have very profound, inward experiences through just experiencing nature without, right. And I guess I could share a story, like, even as to some of the things we can do to reconnect with nature, I had done a four day vision quest before, so it was four days, four nights fasting from all things familiar in the woods here in a kind of central, central Ontario. Shawn Slade: And yeah, so I mean, no food just had water and I mean, it got down to about zero degrees or freezing one of the nights. And I mean, it was the, one of the most profound experiences of my life, right. There was leading up to this. I mean, having been a holistic lifestyle coach and that I've kind of always embraced or at least more so in the last 10 years embrace my spiritual side, let's say especially so working with clients and I would often refer to being raised Christian and whatnot. But you know, nothing, nothing extreme just, you know, celebrating Christmas, celebrating Easter, things like that, right. In this experience in the woods, I kinda, you know, went down the science path. I was really into business. So I kind of like left that whole side of me. Shawn Slade: And then it wasn't until I had that healing experience in the woods during this vision quest, where I started realizing that instead of just using the word source or universe or creator, I started really using the word God. And it changed my perspective on things so much so that I could see DOD or the love that nature has for us, the abundance that nature has. It's just always there. And, you know, I've been into hunting in the last few years and hunting white tail deer and Turkey here in Southwestern Ontario to procure my food in a long time forger and things like that when you actually realize that, wow, like to think that we're more civilized now are better off with all these technologies. It, I mean, I can understand that. Cause I used to believe that, I mean, I grew up on a potato and tobacco farm and used to look at the world as something we have to dominate and control, but once I realized we can't dominate it and control it, we are it, and it's better to work with it. I mean, it's just a really humbling experience and it does something to us. Right. I can't really speak as to like the neurochemical reaction, but I mean, I know cortisol is dropping for sure. Because that is, is something that research looks quite a lot at, in forest therapy. And I mean, yeah, it's just, it's just the, the original human state and it just feels awesome to be in it. Can you unpack Wade Lightheart: Your experience a little bit more? Cause you kind of touched on it. And I think you know, traditional cultures would have a vision quest. Particularly I read many stories about the native American practices where they would, you know, put a person in a teepee or a wigwam and you would stay there for a number of days until in their cases they would go until they started hallucinating and things like that. They were getting so immersed out of the day-to-day activities. What was the experience that you had that was so transcendent for you? Shawn Slade: Yeah, no thanks. Cause you kind of touched on it when your friend mentioned seeing the water and almost seeing like the matrix, like how psychedelic it was and that's exactly the word I would use for that experience with psychedelic. It was in between dream dreaming and awake. I mean I've done a lot of like throughout my time and journey into rewilding, I've done many different, you know, workshops and experiences immersed in different cultural practices, indigenous practices say for example teachings from like Tom brown Jr. And all sorts of survival school type stuff. Right. So I really have immersed myself in nature in a lot of different ways, but the, I mean, and to that point too, using plant medicines, right? So actual psychedelic plant medicines, I would say the, for me anyways, I can only speak towards myself, but this was one of the most profound medicines I've ever done that involved the natural world. Shawn Slade: I mean it was like I say four days, four nights it was to kind of give a back context to that. It was I had just recently gone through a divorce me and my ex, we started that kombucha company you spoke of. So it was a large company kind of grew over night and I've got this multi-million dollar company kind of hanging in the balances were sorting out what's blood. Right. So I'm in the woods while lawyers are just literally finishing up all things. And luckily everything will why it was so transformative is because I totally surrendered to God. I, I kind of went through this ego death experience. You'd say that was like nothing I've ever experienced in my life, say with psychedelics or, or any other healing I've ever done, where I basically just had to understand forgiveness on a very deep level. Shawn Slade: And that as I mentioned God is love nature is, and there is nothing but love even in sadness. And something like divorce love is there. Right. And I kind of, I guess during this, I guess I started, I started doing some chanting essentially to try to kind of move this energy through. And I was just, we were instructed to not meditate or do anything like that. But dance. So I just had finished this really intense dancing where I was stomping on the ground and just kind of asking for my vision. Right. Cause it was at this point, it was literally the last night and I was getting out of there the next morning. And every night I was I'd see what looked like a Wolf in the distance through the trees as the sun was going down. So this last night, the Wolf, I took this Wolf as a sign of fear and all my fears of, you know you know, getting divorced, being, feeling like I'm not enough feeling like people are gonna judge me, what have you. Shawn Slade: And just being hard on myself for working so hard and you know, essentially my, my aspect in this relate in this demise of this relationship, right. But this last night, this Wolf wasn't there and I was all alone. And so after I sat down and then this is when I decided that I needed to kind of move words, which weren't English language. And then from that experience kind of went into like a body like a primordial movement, if you will. There's lots of different modalities out there that kind of focus on what's called continuum or primordial movement where you're just start moving and kind of tracking your body. So I'm not consciously moving my body, but I'm tracking something. And as soon as this thing went right down to the pit of my stomach, I started convulsing. And then from that, I honestly had to just let go. Shawn Slade: And it felt like I had died. Second later, I kind of awake, woke back up, came to, had this intuitive download where all these things that I just mentioned about forgiveness and everything, I just understood it. So that's like, again, that gamma brainwave that I was speaking about where we can get those downloads. Right. And it totally just plopped in my body. And it was a knowing that I was able to say, okay, my work here is done. I mean, having two years spent in the woods, having always, you know, good mental faculty faculties, good cognition, able to write and things like that. I was totally handicapped for two years. And I couldn't even look at my computer to do work after that had downloaded as far as what comes next with my PhD, what comes next with the nature connection forest medicine school that I'll be creating and yeah, just an overall sense of peace and happiness and vitality. So kind of a long-winded story there, but a truly profound. Yeah, Wade Lightheart: I think it's a, I think it's a remarkable story and something first off, thank you for sharing that. And also I think it might be something for many of our listeners to actually consider vision quest and spending time alone in a forest setting has long been a practice throughout very, almost every single culture in the world. And when I was young my parents moved to a very rural place. It was five miles to my nearest, I was in the middle of the woods. And the benefit of that as I learned what silence and integration with nature was, and I've carried that with me as a reminder, as I'm living in a radically urbanized area here in Venice beach, California, but I routinely take a walk out onto the beach and sit on the beach, or I've got a place now where I can get up on my roof and see all the Palm trees and see the stuff. Wade Lightheart: And I instantly see like, just before I came here, I had a half hour for lunch and I took my lunch rather than having an inside. I went up to my rooftop deck and sat in the sunshine and just enjoyed the breeze and enjoyed the Palm trees. And there is a noticeable effect in those small dosages, but going into the deeper moments where there is, as you say I'd say, aye, aye, aye. Death is one way of putting it or a discard moment of the kind of operational program that allows us to interface with the digital world, right. That program. Imagine that's just a per persona that you interface with the world when you drop that you, you now are in the position that you can discover another aspect of you that has been running in the background, but perhaps not integrating or interacting with consciously. So you, would you say that the micro exposures set oneself up to kind of see what, what this full program is capable of doing? Shawn Slade: Oh, definitely. And especially with a little bit of practices, right? Like one simple practice, just sitting at the base of us, a tree in a city park, in journaling, it will be different. And at least in my opinion, it will be different from what you would get, if you're just say inside you know, sitting in doors, not, not in your nature, having nature there with us, where information is exchanging creativity's being sparked whether we know it or not. Right. So yeah, no, I mean, and I guess I didn't, what was your question again? Or what specifically were your specific think about, do you see Wade Lightheart: Like a series of micro integrations of nature leading to maybe a potential bigger aspect where you can kind of go all in and get, get those bigger? Is that a common occurrence with people that start doing that? Or, Shawn Slade: Well, I feel like specifically those smaller doses and I'm going to speak with, I kind of bounce back and forth between these hats, but the academic hat shows that these small micro engagements with local nearby nature do a great work at increasing what's called hedonic wellbeing. So senses like feeling good, just essentially happiness levels, our emotions, that's where the benefit is there. These wilderness or deeper explorations into nature into the deep woods. What is kind of, it seems to be anyways, it's less research because just it's harder to get into wilderness settings. So that makes it harder to research. But it seems like from some studies out there that these wilderness experiences increase what's called eudemonic wellbeing. So the other aspect, the functioning, well aspect of wellbeing, so not about happiness and mood, but more specifically about can sense of purpose, a meaning in life, vitality, all things like that. Shawn Slade: Right. which I find is kind of speaking towards those rights of passages and those experiences that we don't often have in modern day society. I really do feel like whether it be leadership, coaching, or executive coaching, getting folks out into those deep wilderness ex you know, explorations expeditions, where they've actually got to find their own water, they've got to keep a fire going. Despite the rain, it seems to have a different impact on our yeah. Different aspects of wellbeing. So I'd say that you can dip your toe into, I think it's just good to have a regular every day nature connection practice with your local environment. You get to know the local plants, get to know the local squirrels all those things, right. Whereas at the same time kind of preparing solely to go into those, you know, push the envelope, find where your edges and, you know, just like an exercise program, cross that discomfort barrier. Shawn Slade: Right. And I mean, it takes time to get out into nature. I don't expect people to jump four days, four nights in the woods, or, you know, come up with me and do some back country camping up on my land in in the Canadian shield, because I think it's important that we have preparation, like all the things in life we need preparation. I feel like when we are prepared for, we practice preparing for a deep wilderness expedition, we can prepare ourselves for other things in our life. So I think it's the skills that can come from those deep nature. Immersions are very important, but again, so are the everyday benefits really cool. Wade Lightheart: I'm assuming that your PhD defense is going to go well. Speaker 3: My next question would be, Wade Lightheart: Would be, where do you see this being implemented perhaps on policies as far as education or health practices or through medical, what would you envision say your career and its potential influence from a visionary standpoint, 10, 20, 30 years from now? Shawn Slade: Hmm. Well, thanks for that. Now I'll try to dream big, I guess, just to show you where I'm thinking anyways, right? Yeah. That's just it, I mean, it's a, it's an interesting time, like I said, because of the last thing I'd want to see is just people using nature. Like we use current medicines and things like that. As you mentioned in the beginning, I have done some consulting for exercises medicine, Canada, which is an initiative from ACS, M as well as SISEP Canadian branch of a CSM for the American listeners. That's essentially looked at prescribing physical activity by medical doctors. Now, given the last year, I would hate to see anything further fall under the jurisdiction of our medical overlords, especially, especially here in Canada, especially on campus. Yeah, absolutely. Cause then cause then we place that onus outside of ourselves. Shawn Slade: And that's the whole thing, even when like looking at my future as an educator for the public and clinicians and mental health professionals, trying to teach them different nature, connection techniques. Yeah. I'm, I'm very cognizant of the fact that I don't know, we live in these, we live in these odd times, right. Where yes, people can use studies and things for other means. So I guess right now, I guess what I'm trying to say is that yeah, I see, I see a big, let me get to the big dream here is that I see big hope for people integrating nature into our lives rather than just using it as the next quick fix or pill. So re greening our cities, for example, right. Making deep wilderness places more accessible. Like again, I would rather see people, man, this then see it be put in by policy. Shawn Slade: Cause again, I just, I just don't want it just like physical activity. I mean, I had studied physical activity prior to coming into this switching topics to start studying this. And I mean, since we started studying physical activity, we've only become more physically inactive. We've only become more sedentary. Right. So it's like the last thing we need is another health promotion policy program saying get outside and you get your 150 minutes every week, you know, monitor vigorous physical activity, but that's is there is benefit to that. And it would be nice if our government and our society, I think from the grassroots level serve to really demand and appreciate these things. Cause then we could kind of work together. But yeah, no, I mean, at the same time though, I do think it'd be good if, if information was out there saying, Hey, this many times a week for this amount of time in this setting or in this activity, you can receive these health benefits. Shawn Slade: Right. but it, again, it's like, you can't make me, you know, this, I know this, we can't make our clients stop eating Twinkies. They have to choose to do it themselves. Right. And so same thing with nature, we have to, you know, foster that relationship. Like we'd foster that relationship with a loved one that we have. Right. We have to it's a give and take thing. We've got to learn and grow that relationship. And then as we foster that relationship, we're going to want to protect nature. And so yeah. So I guess it kind of different answer to your question. I would love to see for myself. Yeah. Like I mentioned, a couple of times, I'm definitely going to be starting some sort of educational Institute that we're going to be taking, you know, every day average men and women who want to increase nature connection, they might want to learn how to start a fire with a bow drill. Shawn Slade: They might want to immerse themselves in a vision quest. They might want to prepare themselves for that. They might want to just do some hot cold therapy and some really deep breath work in nature, which is one of my favorite things to do in nature. And then on the other side, just getting practitioners used to have prescribing exercises, things like deep nature connection, for example, where we just go outside, use the census and just say one thing that you're grateful for and just say that out loud and just kind of take in nature with all your senses and yeah. So, I mean, there's, it's a bright future for this and I think it's only going to go farther, but again, I just want to see, I hope to see anyways individuals demanding nature rather than it being put on top-down Wade Lightheart: Yeah. I think you're right on all points and I love that and I think it's a great thing. So maybe you can share with us where people can find out more information about you, this kind of word, rewilding, how they might go about developing in a kind of an integrative program for themselves to say, Hey, you know what? I know I'm not connected. I'm living in a city. I want to go forward. I want to direct a sensible and scalable interaction with nature. Like you said, I'm not going to go. Maybe a person's not going to go right into a three-day fast in the wilderness, right. Bucks and flies. And who knows, what else are they? They're not prepared for those environments? Any suggestions around that or where you can reach and find out more information. Sure. Shawn Slade: Yeah, yeah. You know, all too well about those black flies in Northern Ontario. So yeah, it's not, again, you've got to prepare for this stuff. And I guess what I would say first I'll, I'll answer that and then I'll let folks know about the podcast, but first and foremost, just get outdoors, get outdoors and listen. And I think that's something we can do, honestly. When every time you leave your house, make this your practice stop 30 seconds. Just listen, breathe, smell here, listen with your entire being. You see what you get. Honestly, you might have a question, something that you're working on and just looking out, you know, in a distance seeing what comes to you. I think that's an amazing practice. And that's where I would say for anybody, it doesn't matter where you are start doing that right now. If you want to go a little bit deeper. Shawn Slade: Yeah. My podcast would be a great place. I mean, rewild my bio.com. You can head over there, sign up for the newsletter what I'm working on now and been working on for a number of years, I guess, while I was in the woods or once I came out of that vision quest is kind of a program that would help individuals rewild or reconnect with nature around them and within them. And we can do that by starting to pay attention to the elements that we are made of. Right. So air fire, water earth, and ether or space. And just, I mean, whether it's a breathing practice or buying a water donation station and ozonating your water, or just changing up what you eat or, you know, focusing on digestion. So fire how we burn the energy, how we burn the food down and make energy from it. Shawn Slade: Or lighting fires, right. Slowing down and lighting, fires, cooking a meal over a fire. Right. And then of course, space, I mean, we are primarily space, right. And I mean, it is the space between us that connects us. And I think that's an amazing thing. And to connecting with nature, we can connect with that greater mystery in the universe and in the cosmos. So yeah, like I say, stop, stop and listen. Or a yes. Or to commune and talk to celebrate the elements that we are made up of. Cause that's, that's what life is really all about. So yeah. Other than that, I appreciate everybody checking out the podcast and yeah, I really appreciate your time and this invite wait. Okay. Thanks Wade Lightheart: So much, Shawn. I think what you're doing is going to be more and more key as we move forward forward. I'm not so confident in this biodiversity con or bio digital convergence, excuse me. I think you offer a sensible and realistic counter to that, and I encourage everybody to check out your podcast, your site, and I wish you the best in your PhD defense and the course to bring more nature into people's lives. Thank you so much for joining us on the podcast. Okay. Thank you. And there you have it folks. Another edition of BiOptimizers awesome health podcasts. I hope you enjoyed this and I hope you consider the possibility of how adding a little bit of nature into your life on a regular basis can enhance your health, your wellbeing, and your sense of connectedness in the world. Thanks so much for joining I'm. Wade T Lightheart take care.
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