Updated: Jan 23, 2022
In a day and age where the tech giants dominate, a simple reminder to connect to nature is a must. So much of our daily lives are spent staring at screens, be it a phone, in an office or unwinding with a Netflix show at the end of a long day. With so much information and the answers to life’s questions seemingly readily available at the end of our fingertips, it is no surprise that people are forgetting the power of nature that is around us all and it’s healing benefits.
Spending time in green spaces or bringing nature into your every day routine can benefit both your mental and physical wellbeing.
For example, doing things like growing food or flowers, exercising outdoors or being around animals can have lots of positive effects. Mental health charity, Mind, lists just a few of the positive impacts nature can have on our health:
Improves your mood
Helps you take time out and feel more relaxed
Improves your physical health
Improves your confidence and self-esteem
Helps you be more active
Helps you make new connections
Interacting with nature can alleviate mental fatigue by allowing the mind to relax and restore itself.
A study at the University of Kansas found that spending more time outdoors and less time with our electronic devices can increase our problem-solving skills and improve creative abilities (Atchley, Strayer, & Atchley, 2012). Regardless of age or culture, our connection to nature is deeply rooted and can awaken the innermost feelings of happiness and peace.
In one study cited in the book Healing Gardens, researchers found that more than two-thirds of people choose a natural setting to retreat to when they feel stressed. Environments matter as they can either increase or reduce our stress, which in turn impacts our bodies. What you are seeing, hearing, experiencing at any moment is changing not only your mood, but how your nervous, endocrine, and immune systems are calibrating .
Environmental psychologists have argued that there is a value component added to the human-nature relationship. By staying close to nature, we feel more grateful and appreciative of what it has to offer to us (Proshansky, 1976). Seeing the magical wonders of the world outside automatically generates within us the urge to protect it. Breathing in nature gives us wholesome sensory awareness. When we spend time outdoors, we are more mindful of what we see, what we hear, what we smell, and what we feel.
And for those of us who need to go beyond the ‘matter of fact’ provided by science - when it comes to spirituality, it is said that nature can even open the door to our innate intuitive powers and awaken the sacred within.
Perhaps everything is in fact connected with a shared purpose, rhythm, and balance?
Perhaps forging a connection with nature, as our ancient tribal ancestors did, can be the vital tonic we need in this modern technological world. Food for thought…but ultimately experiences in nature can help people embrace their journey of self-discovery.
There is a depth of mystery in the natural world. The emerging field called Nature-Based Therapeutics (NBT) – which includes, but isn’t limited to –therapeutic horticulture, horticultural therapy, restorative environments, therapeutic landscapes, and healing gardens – invites us into these mystery. NBT’s are professionally facilitated interactions with plants, animals and natural landscapes to bring about measurable outcomes in human health and well-being. It is nature's way of healing all people in physical, social, emotional and cognitive ways. For more information on NBT - also referred to as 'ecotherapy' check out this article by The Good Therapy which gives further insight.
Whilst being outside in green space is ideal for reaping the benefits, even having visual access to beautiful landscapes whilst we are indoors can help (especially in the colder months)
Make contact with the earth. Go outside, take off your shoes and socks and sink your bare feet into the grass. Or find a tree and place your palms on the trunk - if you’re really feeling the love, you could even give it a big tree-hug! Connecting to nature in this way is referred to as grounding and is a therapeutic technique that involves doing activities that ground or electronically reconnect you to the earth.
Find an outdoor hobby. Instead of plugging into the online META universe, try something new. Volunteer to dog walk, take an exercise class outside. Maybe take your canvas outside and let nature inspire your creative artistic work. Simply journaling with a pen and paper whilst in the grass counts. Here are 10 creative writing prompts to Boost Your Nature Journaling Skills by National Geographic.
Let the light in. Even if you can’t get outside, open the curtains, pull up the blinds, and let some natural sunlight pour into the room. When you wake up, open your window and stand in front of the sun. Look outside and take in all the beauty of nature. Breathe in. Notice the smells, the colours of the sky, the shapes of the clouds and the sounds of the birds. If you are in an urban environment you can also use this as an opportunity to go inwards and let your imagination work wonders. Can you remember a time when you felt the warmth of the sun kissing your skin? How did it make you feel? What made that moment so special?
Revel in ALL weathers - Leave the umbrella at home and dance in the rain. Did you know that water is one of the most natural resources for cleansing and refreshing energy?
Try out your green thumb. Whether you have space indoors or out, growing plants can help you cultivate a connection to nature. Start a garden, plant some flowers, or find a potted plant for your work space.
Let nature into your living environment and surround you virtually. You can use it as a Zoom background, on your desktop or tablet or as a screensaver on your phone. Got a favourite travelling picture? Or a place you’d love to visit some day? Why not print it out and hang it on your wall. Not only can you see the beauty of nature around you, you’ll probably end up manifesting it into existence too ;)
So… next time you get the chance, stop and smell the roses.
You may be surprised at just how good you’ll feel after.