This series, curated by Brian Johnson, founder of PhilosophersNotes, features big ideas from leading thinkers on a wide range of personal-development topics. Find the full version of “How to Follow Nature’s Path to Health” (free!) below. For more optimal-living wisdom, visit www.BrianJohnson.me.
Ever since I was a little boy, I’ve felt connected to nature and physical activity. To this day, I turn back to nature when I’m looking for the truth about the best way to do something.
We’re at a time in history when many of us are continually being pulled away from what is true, honest, and right. We’re growing more disconnected from ourselves and each other. Sometimes it seems like we’re supposed to be more focused on making money, how big our biceps are, or the status of who we’re hanging out with.
We can learn many lessons from nature that can help us avoid getting too wrapped up in our egos and the appearance of things. Nature is about connecting with ourselves and living in the moment. Greater self-awareness leads us to greater connections with those in our tribe and the world.
Ten years ago, as part of a commitment to create a healthier planet, I gave away my car and began riding my bike everywhere. Little by little, I changed my life.
Here are a few concepts inspired by nature that have helped me. I hope they help you move toward a more profound sense of self-connection so you can find more authentic and meaningful connections to others and the world.
1. Build Self-Reliance Through Experience
In today’s society, we’ve created dependency on machines, prescription drugs, and doctors, instead of looking within to solve our mental, physical, and spiritual issues.
Nature helps you develop self-reliance. It teaches you to carry your own weight so you can be strong and self-aware.
2. Train As You Play
Watch a litter of puppies or kittens and you’ll notice that one of the first things they do is wrestle. They are learning to use all of their natural movement capabilities.
Humans can do this by playing like they did as children. Climbing, running, jumping, and crawling allow us to develop natural movement patterns, not just muscles, and can help us train for performance and survival rather than a specific appearance.
3. Be Stronger Together
Individually we are weak like fingers; together we are strong like a fist. Like most things in nature, humans do not thrive alone.
Just like using all of our muscles will build a whole, strong body, training with someone else yields greater results and improves well-being. Try training with one other -person or a group, and you’ll see and feel the results of being supported and motivated by others.
4. Eat Simply
Most animals consume only what they need to feel satisfied. Predators consume mostly meat, while prey animals eat mostly plants.
Humans are primates. Primates by nature consume mostly plants, and small amounts of meat.
Eating simply and drinking enough water can help us live in harmony with our bodies, and at the same time avoid overconsumption and reduce our impact on the planet.
5. Avoid Fad Diets
If we followed our nature as primates, we’d consume simple, unprocessed, plant-based foods instead of gobbling low-cal processed foods and jumping from one crazy diet to the next. We’d eat for energy, and for our individual optimal health, rather than following a certain set of faddish guidelines.
6. Recover Naturally
If an animal is sick, it might stop eating; if its stomach is upset, it might eat only grass. It rests rather than continuing to push onward. Instead of depending on isolated cures or pills, animals listen to their bodies.
We humans can follow these cues to improve our health and well-being. Next time you’re not feeling well, slow down, rest, and allow yourself time to fully recover.
7. Choose Function Over Fashion
In nature, the goal is perfecting survival skills rather than developing an appearance of “looking” fit. Being stealthy, intelligent, and wise from practice results in higher performance and a greater chance of survival.
Training for the fun and perfection of movement ensures we’ll gain high-level skills and continue to grow mentally and physically.
8. Get Outside
Nature gets us back to our natural state of play. You can use tools like a jungle gym to challenge yourself and get a full-body workout, but you don’t need any special equipment to build strength or do instinctive movements. Throw a ball, run, or climb a tree, and you’ll improve your body, mind, and spirit. When we have fun exercising, we begin seeing results.
9. Stretch Actively
Humans are the only animals that do isolated stretching. Isolation can lead to overstretching, which can lead to misalignment and injury.
Animals actively and innately stretch every day because it balances the body. Think of a dog when it does its familiar upward and downward stretching movements.
We humans do this instinctively, too — when we lean back and stretch while yawning, for instance. As the muscles in our backs contract, the opposite muscles begin to relax (a process known as reciprocal inhibition).
Doing movements that actively align the body every day helps us develop stability and mobility. And this will hopefully lead to enjoying a pain-free body and the ability to perform any movement.
10. Heal Naturally Through Healthy Foods and Movements
The rising rates of mental pain and chronic disease indicate we’re not walking a healthy path. By following nature’s lead in how we eat, move, and balance, we can get back on track and build a happier, healthier world that co-exists with nature.
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Discover a 10-step guide to caring for your mental and physical well-being from Jon Hinds, founder of the Monkey Bar Gymnasium.