Walking in nature has become such an important practice in my life, I can't really imagine a reality without it. Yet it's only recently that I've stopped to wonder why it has had such a positive impact on me over the years.
There has been significant research to show that nature enhances our physical and mental well being. Probably the most notable is a study by Roger Ulrich (1972) who observed a quicker recovery time for hospital patients who had a view onto a natural setting from their hospital room window, than patients facing a brick building.
Many have embraced nature by engaging in practices such as tree-hugging, and tree-bathing. In the world of therapy, many of us have begun offering walk and talk and eco-therapy. But what is it that is so healing about nature? There are plenty of scientific explanations, but I believe there is also a longing for connection with the natural world etched into the human psyche.
Those of us living in the highly-developed Western world experience so much of our earth indirectly. We consume food which has undergone many processes before reaching our plates. We learn about our planet by watching documentaries on T.V. We live in a ready-made world with little need for interaction with the original source. Whilst we may feel gratitude, we may have little appreciation for where our consumables come from, or how they arrived there.
What we forget, when we talk about nature, is that as humans we are nature. If we have lost our connection with nature, we have also lost our connection with ourselves. This leaves us feeling alone, lost and stressed from the continual pressures of living in a fast-paced, complex world with an ever-increasing emphasis on productivity and over-reliance on digital devices.
So, how do we re-connect with nature and with ourselves? I have listed a few ideas below, but would encourage you to find your own creative ways too!
"Everything in nature invites us constantly to be what we are"
This quote by Ulrich is one of my all time favourites. It is so true. In nature, we find a space to be ourselves. We can relax and feel the joy of being grounded and present. Nature teaches us many things. It reminds us of the cyclical nature of life. The ebb and flow. When we see a dead leaf, or a rotten tree, we are reminded that nothing is ever perfect, yet there is always continuation. All nature is connected, existing in harmony. And we are part of that, of something bigger than our individual lives. And we remember that we are not alone.