Nature Is Medicine

Nature is medicine

We live in a fast-paced world, surrounded by technology and endless responsibilities. With so much to do, it’s easy to overlook the importance of connecting with nature.

Many of us intuitively recognize that spending time in nature can be restorative. But, did you know that it can also have a positive impact on our physical and mental health?

The benefits of spending time in nature are undeniable and well-documented and many experts now consider time in the outdoors to be a form of medicine for the mind and body.

As we’re squarely in the middle of winter here in NJ, we wanted to provide some food for thought (and motivation!) to get outside.

What we can learn from the Nordics:

For those living in regions that experience cold winters and shorter/darker days, it’s convenient to not spend time outdoors during the winter months.

However, we can learn quite a lot from the Nordics. Those in Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Finland and Iceland experience notoriously long and harsh winters yet find time to embrace the outdoors year-round.

Some of the things we can learn from them include:

  1. Dress appropriately: People in cold Nordic countries have learned to dress in layers and wear warm clothing to stay comfortable in harsh weather conditions.
  2. Stay active: People in these countries are known to be active, and they often engage in outdoor activities such as skiing, snowshoeing, and hiking, which can provide numerous physical and mental health benefits.
  3. Incorporate friends + community: Spending time outdoors is often a social activity in Nordic countries, and people there have developed a strong sense of community through their shared love of nature.
  4. Soak in natural light: During the winter months, there is limited daylight in many Nordic countries, and people there have learned the importance of getting outside and exposing themselves to natural light to boost their mood and counteract the effects of seasonal affective disorder (SAD).

While many still believe that we “catch a cold” from time spent in the cold outdoors, consider that exposure to cold temperatures can actually increase the production of white blood cells and other immune system components to fight off infection and disease.

Translation: Spending time in the cold may actually improve our immune system and help to build resilience.

What we can learn from the Japanese:

In recent years the Japanese practice of “shinrin-yoku,” or forest bathing, has gained traction globally.

Forest bathing? Yes. Forest bathing.

Forest bathing involves spending time in forests and other natural environments to improve physical and mental health. The concept is based on the idea that spending time in nature can help reduce stress and improve overall well-being by stimulating the senses and promoting a deep connection with the natural world.

In 2016, after seeing a growing body of research supporting the benefits of forest bathing, the Japanese Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries even launched a national forest therapy program, with the goal of promoting the health benefits of spending time in forests.

Some forest bathing best practices:

  1. Disconnect from technology: Turn off your phone and other devices to fully immerse yourself in the natural environment.
  2. Slow down and focus on your senses: Use your senses to engage with the environment, such as by paying attention to the sounds, smells, and textures of the forest.
  3. Walk slowly and mindfully: Take a slow, leisurely walk, paying attention to your body and breathing.
  4. Do it regularly: Regularly spending time in nature (ideally 5hrs/wk) can help to sustain the benefits over time.


Perhaps not a great winter activity, grounding (also known as earthing) is a practice that involves direct physical contact with the earth, such as walking barefoot on grass, sand, or soil.

Now, before you check to see if our tin foil hats are strapped on too tight, hear us out.

The idea behind grounding is that it helps to reduce inflammation and improve overall health by promoting the transfer of electrons from the earth to the body.

The earth is a source of free electrons, which are negatively charged particles that can help to neutralize positively charged particles in the body that contribute to inflammation and other health problems.

When we walk barefoot on the ground, the soles of our feet come into direct contact with the earth, allowing us to absorb these free electrons into our bodies.

While current research is still preliminary, many people report feeling improved physical and mental well-being after spending time grounded, and there is a growing body of scientific evidence to support the potential health benefits of this practice.

Noted benefits include reducing inflammation, stress, and anxiety. It’s also believed that grounding can have an impact on the nervous system and the circadian rhythm, helping to regulate the production of hormones and improve sleep.

Some grounding best practices:

  1. Spend time barefoot outside: Spend time walking barefoot on grass, sand, or soil, or sit with bare feet on the ground, to allow for direct physical contact with the earth.
  2. Use grounding products: There are a variety of grounding products available, such as mats and sheets, that can help to promote the transfer of electrons from the earth to the body.
  3. Practice mindfulness: Combine grounding with mindfulness practices, such as meditation, to help focus your attention on the present moment and enhance the benefits of grounding.
  4. Incorporate it daily: Make grounding a regular part of your daily routine, such as by spending time barefoot outside each morning or evening.

What the studies say:

Numerous studies have shown that spending time in nature can have a positive impact on mental health and well-being.

A few of them:

International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health:

Study found that exposure to forest environments resulted in lower levels of cortisol, lower blood pressure, improved mood, reduced symptoms of depression and anxiety, and improvements in overall life satisfaction.

Environmental Science & Technology:

Study found that just five minutes of exposure to nature can lower stress levels and improve overall mood.

American Journal of Public Health:

Study found that people who live in areas with higher levels of green space have a lower risk of obesity, type 2 diabetes, and cardiovascular disease.

Journal of Affective Disorders:

Study found that participation in nature-based therapy reduced symptoms of anxiety and depression in patients with major depressive disorder. Additionally, outdoor light therapy was an effective treatment for season affective disorder (SAD), and a review of existing research found that exposure to natural light, especially during the winter months, can have a positive impact on SAD symptoms.


Study found that participants who took a two-hour forest bath showed a significant decrease in symptoms of anxiety and depression, as well as improved sleep and overall well-being.

Journal of Inflammation Research:

Study found that grounding reduced inflammation markers in the body.

Additional Sources:

Final Thoughts:

We all want to feel our best, especially in the thick of winter.

Whether it’s bundling up like the Nordics, forest bathing like the Japanese, or grounding like your tin-foil-hat-wearing financial planners (ehmm… Dennis), your time outdoors will pay dividends for your health.

Make the investment (i.e. get outside!) and reap the returns for mind, body, and soul.

A Looming Debt Ceiling

Debt Ceiling

If you follow business/financial news at all, it’s likely that you’re aware of the looming debt ceiling crisis.

In this month’s contribution, we want to peel back the onion and provide a clearer understanding of what it’s all about.

Why is the debt ceiling important?

Also known as the statutory debt limit, the debt ceiling is a legal limit set by the United States Congress on the amount of debt that the federal government can accumulate.

When the government spends more money than it takes in through taxes and other revenue, it borrows money to make up the difference. This borrowed money increases the government’s debt.

When the debt reaches the legal limit set by the debt ceiling, the government is unable to borrow any more money until the debt ceiling is raised by Congress.

Implications of Hitting the Ceiling

Consequences could include:

  • Government shutdown of certain non-essential operations.
  • Default on debt obligations which would likely result in increased volatility (and short-term hit) to the economy and financial markets.
  • US credit rating could get downgraded.
  • Borrowing could get more expensive.
  • Treasury holders of maturing treasuries will be SOL.

History of Debt Ceiling Crises:

This isn’t the first time that political brinksmanship has pushed us towards defaulting on our national debt.

  • 1917: Modern concept of the debt ceiling is established.
  • 1940s-1950s: Debt ceiling was raised during WWII and the post-war period to finance the war effort + support growth.
  •  1970s-Early 2000s: The debt ceiling was raised multiple times with little controversy or public debate.
  • 2011: A political dispute over the debt ceiling resulted in the first-ever U.S. credit downgrade and a stock market sell-off.
  • 2013: Debt ceiling dispute resulted in 16-day government shutdown.
  • 2015/2017/2019: Congress successfully negotiated last-minute compromises that avoided hitting the ceiling.

Different Views on Debt and Deficits: 

While there are certainly many different views on sovereign debt and deficit spending, we wanted to share two views from two authors we’ve recently read:

Stephanie Kelton: Author of The Deficit Myth

Stephanie argues that we should not conflate federal debt and personal (i.e. household) debt.

Kelton, a proponent of Modern Monetary Theory (MMT), argues that the government is not like a household in that it does not have to balance its books to avoid default.

Instead, Kelton and other MMT’ers advocate that so long as the federal government has access to real resources (labor/capital), the government can always a) create money and b) pay its debts.

MMT also suggests that the government should be focused on spending to address important social/economic needs and that hyperinflation (i.e. currency depreciation) is a valid, yet ancillary, concern that can be controlled via fiscal discipline.

Kelton and MMT note that as long as a government controls its own currency, it has the ability to use monetary policy to influence the value of its currency.

For example, the government can decrease (or increase) the money supply, which can lead to currency appreciation (or devaluation).

Note that MMT is still a developing theory and its full implications/limitations are still being debated by economists and policymakers.

Ray Dalio: Famed investor and author of Principles for Dealing with the Changing World Order: Why Nations Succeed and Fail

Ray Dalio outlines how poorly managed monetary policy can directly influence the fall of empires.

Dalio, who has conventional macroeconomic views and is supportive of market-based solutions, argues that the management of sovereign debt and deficits is critical for effective governance.

Dalio’s principles are focused on promoting economic growth, fostering innovation, and developing effective governance systems that can:

a) minimize the odds of rampant inflation and

b) manage the complex economic and political challenges of the 21st century.

He argues that large debt and deficits can have significant consequences for the economy and the financial markets, particularly when interest rates are rising.

Dalio’s book also provides historical context for the U.S. dollar – the world’s most recent reserve currency – noting that its dominance can lead policymakers to abuse its position by printing too much money, leading to inflation and (eventually) devaluation of the currency.

Overall, Dalio’s views on the U.S. dollar as the world’s reserve currency reflect a nuanced perspective, recognizing the benefits and risks of the current system and the importance of considering both short- and long-term implications of monetary and fiscal policy decisions.

What you can do:

In short: not much.

If the US defaults on its debt payments, there will be very few places to run or hide within the financial markets.

Geopolitically, this could be another strike (at least symbolically) against the idea of US exceptionalism and increase existing power struggles between the US and China.

Here at wHealth Advisors, we’d like to think that our elected officials understand both game theory + the stakes of the game they’re playing.

Perhaps we give them too much credit.

Either way, we’re rationally optimistic that we’ll avoid devolving into a developing country and that a compromise on the debt ceiling will be reached – one that might result in increasing the debt ceiling, decreasing spending, or some mix of both.