“Place your hands into soil to feel grounded. Wade in water to feel emotionally healed. Fill your lungs with fresh air to feel mentally clear. Raise your face to the heat of the sun and connect with that fire to feel your own immense power.” – Victoria Erickson
Did you know that your lifestyle affects your DNA?
In fact, your DNA is being altered all the time by the environment, lifestyle and traumatic events, and your choices will have an impact on future generations.
The latest scientific findings of how our genes are affected by lifestyle choices, the environment where we spend most of our time and also traumatic experiences in life. All these factors determine not only longevity, aging, general health and well-being, but also leave a detrimental or beneficial legacy for our children and grandchildren.
Scientists at the University of Cambridge have discovered the biological mechanism for this effect, revealing that genetic faults caused by trauma, poor lifestyle or environmental stress can be passed down to future generations.
“Between week two and week nine of an embryo’s development the genetic code is being rewritten to erase genetic alterations from the parents. However, the researchers found that the processes do not clear all of the changes. Around 5 per cent of DNA appears resistant to reprogramming”.
This leaves us a big responsibility… Don’t you think?
However, DNA can’t explain all inherited biological traits.
A study conducted at the University of Edinburgh concluded that characteristics passed between generations are not decided solely by DNA, but can be brought about by other material in cells, like proteins, known as histones. They mention that histones are not part of the genetic code, but act as spools around which DNA is wound and control whether or not genes are switched on!
For the first time, it is known that DNA is not the only responsible for how characteristics are inherited. But the question remains about the method of inheritance and if it is linked to particular traits or health conditions. What this group of scientists questioned is if environmental conditions – such as stress or diet – may produce changes to the histone proteins and therefore influence the function of genes passed on to offspring.
This makes us question if health conditions can be resistant to reprogramming? Or whether healthy lifestyle choices can alter this information!
“The ancestral exposure of your great grandmother alters your brain development to then respond to stress differently… We did not know a stress response could be programmed by your ancestors’ environmental exposures”, says Michael Skinner.
Real increases in mental disorders like autism and bipolar disorder also bring into perspective the cumulative effect of environmental exposure: “It’s more than just a change in diagnostics. The question is why? Is it because we are living in a more frantic world, or because we are living in a more frantic world and are responding to that in a different way because we have been exposed? I favor the latter.” (Michael Skinner, Today’s environment influences behavior generations later, Washington University News).
Transformational DNA, reprogramming the present and the future.
All the above independent studies point out aspects of environmental conditions and ancestral epigenetic inheritance and how individual early life events play a role in how well we socialize or how your anxiety levels respond to stress. You are what you eat, the saying goes. And, according to these genetic studies, you are what your mother, father, grandparents, and great-grandparents ate, too.
The mechanisms of behavioral epigenetics (a study of how signals from the environment trigger molecular biological changes that modify what goes on in brain cells) underlie not only deficits and weaknesses but strengths and resiliencies too.
Histones, DNA and… Nature!
Research reveals that environments can increase or reduce our stress, which in turn impacts our bodies, minds and our relationships with others. The stress of an unpleasant environment can cause you to feel anxious, sad, disconnected or fearful. This, in turn, elevates your blood pressure, heart rate, and muscle tension and suppresses your immune system. A pleasant environment reverses that.
That’s why the decisions we make regarding our daily life choices – what and how we eat, where and how we spend most of our time, our self-talk and how we relate to others – has profound effects not only in ourselves but in all of the humanity. What you are seeing, hearing, experiencing at any moment is changing not only your mood, but how your nervous, endocrine, and immune systems are working, and also the information that is passed into your DNA.
Studies that used MRI to measure brain activity showed that when participants viewed nature scenes, the areas of the brain associated with empathy and love “light-up”, but when they viewed urban scenes, the areas of the brain associated with fear and anxiety were activated. These results contribute for the premise that nature inspires feelings that connect us to each other and our environment.
Being in nature, or even viewing scenes of nature, reduces anger, fear, and stress and increases enjoyable feelings. Exposure and interaction with nature not only makes you feel better emotionally but also contributes to your physical well-being.
In addition, nature helps us cope with pain.
Why? Because time in nature or viewing nature scenes increases our ability to pay attention. Because humans find nature inherently interesting, we can naturally focus on what we are experiencing out in nature. This also provides a pause for our overactive minds, energizing us for new tasks.
The great news is that we all have ways to connect with nature, with all the health benefits associated and consequently improve our family’s future. We have highlighted some of the many “green options” that will make you whip your histones and DNA into shape!
1. Green Exercise
Green exercise refers to physical exercise undertaken in natural environments. Physical exercise is well known to provide physical and psychological health benefits.
There is also good evidence that viewing, being in, and interacting with natural environments has positive effects, reducing stress and increasing the ability to cope with stress, reducing mental fatigue and improving concentration and cognitive function.
Here are some examples that you can try:
- Green Gym – if you are in the UK you can join one of these amazing projects. Or maybe get inspired to create a Green Gym in your local area!
- Care farming – if you don’t have access to a farm you can join WWOOF for worldwide opportunities on organic farms.
- Gardening is one of the most popular forms of green exercise and you can get fresh veggies and fruits.
- Forest bathing
- Barefoot running
- Earthing – the action of walking on grass in bare feet; soaking up the earth’s energy through your soles.
Is a mental state of awareness, focus, and openness – which allows you to engage fully in what you are doing at any moment. In a state of mindfulness, difficult thoughts and feelings have much less impact and influence over you.
Involves the use of focused attention upon personal experiences to promote calmness and stability and to help achieve self-acceptance. Why not try a mindfulness walk?
3. Synchronicity Walks
Paying attention to meaningful coincidences can help us create the kind of life we want. Through these connections, we can often identify what we do not want in our lives and what we want to embrace and honor. Being aware of synchronicities and inviting or cultivating their presence can add spark to life and fuel our dream recall, imagination, playfulness, and intuitive skills.
Begin with a question, one that you can act upon in some manner to test out the validity of the guidance you receive. Then go for a walk. Expect to notice things in nature at key moments in your stream of thought, noting objects in nature that will trigger insights and connections with regard to your question.
Write up your experience. Describe the question you held, nature objects you noted, the synchronicity experiences you encountered, the guidance received, and the way you evaluated that guidance.
Interaction with nature promotes positive changes to a person’s physical, mental and social life such as:
- Reducing anger, frustration, and aggression.
- Increasing a sense of belonging and acceptance.
- Socialization, mobility, mental stimulation, touch, physiological benefits, and the fulfillment of basic needs such as love, respect, usefulness, trust, self-worth and nurturing.
Through histones DNA is affected by lifestyle choices and the environment, characteristics are inherited and passed down through future generations which will have a profound effect on humanity’s health and well-being.
Any real change will most likely happen at an individual level, through changes in attitudes and everyday behavior. For this change to happen, an individual will need to feel connected to the natural world because reconnection to nature is vital.
What you are seeing, hearing, experiencing and eating at any moment is changing not only your mood, but how your nervous, endocrine, and immune systems are working, and also the information that is passed into your DNA.
After spending several hours researching and writing this article we are going to have now our vital time in nature, and if we are lucky maybe nature will show us some meaningful synchronicities!
During your lunchtime or after leaving your work, go for a barefoot walk in nature (earthing), go outside during the working day and touch a tree.
Then, bring a beautiful leaf to work, eat lunch in a park or look up at the night sky, and you will not only improve your mood, lower your blood pressure level as well you will be contributing for healthier information that will pass on to your children.
So with all the information that you have read, will you take the opportunity today to start a more healthy life with therapeutic nature as your guide?
- The University of Cambridge. Reprogramming of DNA observed in human germ cells for the first time.
- The University of Edinburgh. (2015, April 2). DNA can’t explain all inherited biological traits, research shows. Science Daily. Retrieved June 6, 2015, from https://www.sciencedaily.com/
- The University of Minnesota. (2014, June 25). How Does Nature Impact Our Wellbeing? from https://www.takingcharge.csh.umn.edu/
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