Study nature, Love nature, Stay close to nature. It will never fail you. Frank Lloyd Wright.
We are wired to be in nature.
The vacation industry panders to this fact, reflected in premium charge for rooms with a view of the ocean, the mountains or ski slopes, or cabins in the woods or beside a beach. No one asks for a room beside the lift shaft with a balcony overlooking a car park! We naturally gravitate towards parks, trees, oceans, rivers and natural beauty.
Numerous studies have revealed very real benefits of being in nature; some are listed below:
- Short-term memory improves. Could this be why, as a child, I far preferred to study for exams sitting in a field of heather, rather than the classroom?
- Ability to focus;
- Stress levels are reduced; cortisol levels are lowered;
- Pulse and blood pressure lowered;
- Inflammation levels reduced in students and seniors;
- Mental energy restored from being in nature and from looking at pictures of nature;
- Anxiety, depression, bad moods and some mental health issues eased, particularly when exercise such as walking and biking were involved;
- Self- esteem improved;
- Water (ocean, waterfalls, lakes, rivers) proved highly beneficial;
- Short sightedness in children reduced by being outdoors over the course of a year;
- Creative problem solving improved 50% after spending 4 days in nature;
- Hospital patients recover more quickly when their beds have a window overlooking nature.
Further research is being carried out into immune boosting and cancer fighting benefits of nature.
In Japan forest bathing (time spent in the forest) is considered a form of preventative medicine and studies have found lower mortality rates from a variety of cancers in areas with more forest. In one study a 12% lower mortality from cancer, lung disease and kidney disease was connected to a greener environment.
Realistically, populations are gathered in cities and many people are unable to walk in the forest daily. If you are one of them, here are some suggestions to help you feel connected to nature wherever you are, to help soothe your whole being:
- Play nature sounds softly in the background while you work. There are many MP3s available of birdsong, the ocean, waterfalls and rain;
- Have a waterfall in the room you work or in the bedroom when you sleep;
- Take walks in your neighbourhood and focus your attention on the sky (colour, clouds), trees and plants;
- Spend time watching birds, animals, ants and bugs;
- Find a park to spend 10-30 minutes;
- Smell the air; notice the smell after rain;
- Watch rain or snow falling, puddles, raindrops on the window;
- Listen to the sounds of rain, wind, water;
- Notice sunrise, sunset, colour of the sky at night, shapes of clouds.
- Feel the sensation of rain, wind, temperature of the air on your skin.
- Have plants and flowers in your home, and workspace;
- Display pictures of nature that you love and help you to feel calm.
- Imagine yourself in a picture experiencing nature (see, hear, feel, taste, smell);
- Diffuse essential oils of pine, citrus or flowers (rose and lavender are calming).
- Breathe deeply when in, or imagining yourself in, nature.
The mind is powerful, and doesn’t know the difference between imagination and reality. So imagine yourself in nature with all your senses and enjoy the benefits. And then, when you can, forest bathe, or walk in your favourite natural place and be fully aware of where you are.
Be in awe of the myriad natural miracles all around you.