A few months ago I took some time to feed my soul – to sit by the river and to connect in as many ways as I could with the nature around me. What I experienced, along with so many other humans over the history of our species, is that being in nature is a powerful way of improving our wellbeing. I left feeling calmer. My mind had slowed. My problems and concerns had shrunk and I felt connected to the world around me.
Over recent years scientists have begun the study of the effects of nature on physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health. Although there is still much to learn, the results are showing that spending time in nature is very good for our health. However, more and more people are living over timetabled lives in urban areas making it more difficult to find this connection. Often we have over stuffed our lives with virtual events, prepared content and scheduling – leaving little room to ‘smell the roses’.
My favourite study of the healing effects of nature is from back in 1984 by Ulrich which examined differences between people recovering from gall bladder surgery. Some patients had a view of trees, sky and plants through a window and some saw a brick wall. Patients with the nature view healed a day faster, needed less pain medication and had fewer postsurgical complications than patients who saw a brick wall. If a view through a window can make such a difference to physical recovery imagine what can happen to our mental and emotional selves when we intentionally immerse ourselves in nature!
Since that initial ground breaking study there has followed a steady stream of research into the physical, mental and emotional healing effects of nature. However, perhaps the best study is the one that we do for ourselves. What happens to your mind and body when you engage with the natural world? You may like to spend some time connecting with nature today and pay attention to what small changes happen to you.
Some tips for connecting with nature:
- Look up. Spend a few minutes noticing the sky. What can you see? What does it get you thinking? What effect does it have on your body? On your mind?
- Grow something. Grow some alfalfa seeds – watch how they change, care for some indoor plants
- Walk barefoot on the grass or ground. How does it feel? What are the effects on your body and mind?
- Go for a walk and purposefully notice all the ways nature around you – even the weeds. Leave your headphones out and listen for the sounds of nature.
- Take a picnic rug or chair and sit in a park. Feel a leaf. Hear the sounds. See the animals. Smell the air.