I feel so fortunate that so much of my personal and professional life involves nature. This has been by design, not by accident! My earliest happy memories are the moments spent up in a tree; at the beach; in the garden; out bush camping; in the forest; or under the stars!
Calvin: Look at all the stars! The universe just goes out forever and ever!
Hobbes: It kind of makes you wonder why man considers himself such a big screaming deal!
Instinctively, I have been drawn to nature when I have been in a space of confusion, fatigue, or feeling ‘out of sorts’ emotionally. It has always served as a ‘pick me up’ on every level of my being, and many, many hours of wonderfully profound conversations have been had with others against a backdrop of nature!
May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view. Edward Abbey
It turns out that there is now EVIDENCE being produced from research that proves just how nature heals us! Doctors in Scotland can now prescribe nature to their patients! “One long stroll, four times a week.” This has been shown to lower blood pressure, reduce anxiety, and increase happiness in patients. [See link below for the article.]
Florence Williams in her fantastic book “The Nature Fix” explains why nature makes us happier, healthier and more creative. She explores the Japanese custom of Shinrin yoku – Forest bathing – which is now part of preventative medicine in Japan – reflecting their nature/civilisation hybrid. Li, who is the chairman of the Japanese Society of Forest Medicine has the following recommendations “If you have time for a vacation, don’t go to a city. Go to a natural area. Try to go one weekend a month. Visit a park at least once a week. Gardening is good. On urban walks, try to walk under trees, not across fields. Go to a quiet place. Near water is also good.”
Erich Fromm, a social psychologist coined the term “Biophilia – the passionate love of life and of all that is alive – it is the wish to further growth, whether in a person, a plant, an idea or a social group.” If you have an instinct to head out into nature – your in-tuition (inner teacher) is serving you well – follow it and reap the rewards! Research recommends a minimum 5 hours outdoors per month for Well-Being!
Studies in Japan found that forest walks (even shorter immersions) can lead to a 12% reduction in stress hormones such as cortisol, a 7% decrease in the sympathetic nerve activity (the fight/flight system), a 6% decrease in the resting heart rate, and lowered blood pressure. Psychologically, moods are improved, and anxiety is reduced following a ‘dose’ of forest bathing. Chemically, the phytoncides – terpenes released by the trees, are antibacterial, and so good for our health too! Our immunity is boosted by exposure to forests and trees, with an increase in killer cells triggered too!
Between every two pine trees there is a door leading to a new way of life. John Muir
Nature provides us with an opportunity to ‘zoom out’ by being present, gaining a new perspective on our lives. Being in the outdoors promotes curiosity too – we are drawn out of ourselves – we only need to look at young children to see how time stands still for them as they become one with their environment. It’s a place without judgement – we can be who we are – authentically – the trees and the animals are not assessing us – we can breathe out and relax!
In an era where the average person looks at their phone 150 times per day, and the average teen sends 3000 text messages per month, social connection is like sugar – it’s addictive. Perhaps we can connect in the outdoors? Did you know that when we stare at screens all day we blink less, which leads to dry eyes?
Next time you arrange a coffee with a friend, go for a walk first. Instead of meeting in an office, have a walking meeting. Engage in walking meditations regularly, or simply sit and be still under a large tree or in a garden or a natural place of beauty.
We need to Disconnect to Reconnect! With ourselves and with others.
To hone our decision-making capacity, our ability to pay attention, & improve our focus management, studies have shown that if we can go outside into nature, or stare out a window at nature (yes, really!) we will give our brains a chance to refresh, and come back to our tasks more productively. Attention Restoration Therapy (ART) reduces the cognitive load, and reduces anxiety, allowing our front brains to recharge.
The benefit of listening to soundscapes has been researched too. They are another lovely way to use nature for our wellbeing – listening to recordings of birds, waterfalls, oceans, and other nature sounds help us unwind and provide an opportunity for our parasympathetic nervous system – our rest and digest system – to function effectively.
Finnish culture is closely connected to their land. There is a term Metsänpeitto: which is about getting lost in beauty – a taste of freedom, nature-union and joy. I love this expression – it describes how I feel when I immerse myself in nature and simply connect with the world around me – they describe it as forest-bathing on acid!!
There is a power in eternity, and it is green. Hildegard von Bingen
So, let’s all set our intentions to allow more nature in our lives – to connect intentionally with the natural world that is all around us – which will bring us greater wellbeing, and help us to live mindfully, present for ourselves and for others. After all, it’s free!! And our beautiful landscape awaits us!
Alive by nature, Gabrielle!
The Nature Fix ~ Florence Williams
The Biophilia Effect ~ Clemens G Arvay
Doctors in Scotland article link:
As a part of my own spiritual and personal practice, I chose 52 words to reflect on over the course of a year.