How do you feel when you immerse yourself in nature for a time - a bush walk or beach visit - or just sit in your garden or the local park? Do you feel more calm and energetic at the same time? Do your problems seem less burdensome, and do you have more ideas about how to work at solving them? Do you feel less annoyed, less flustered, less worried about things which just before seemed so important?
These are some of the effects I feel from being in nature, and there's a lot of information available about how beneficial it is. The Queensland State Government recommends it for mental and physical health, while Health.com tells us that it lowers depression and stress, adds a burst of happiness, restores attention levels (focus), and increases our immunity. For a deeper dive, see this article from Positive Psychology.com .
I've been thinking, the past week, about why we need nature - beyond the obvious reasons like food and air. I believe we need it because our bodies are part of nature. Our modern lives are fast and busy; even more so when compared to how people lived for all of human history until a couple of hundred years ago - even compared to 100 or 50 years ago. We buy food that is immediately available from shelves; travel in cars at fast speeds, which get us large distances quickly; find information quickly and easily; hear reports of many things happening in the world; speak on the phone or over the internet to people far away.
Our bodies, though, are set to the rhythms of the natural world - the rising and setting of the sun; the weather; our years of life - and the fast and noisy pace at which we live works against those rhythms. Our sleep/wake cycle is triggered by light, and set to the time of an earth day and night. If you sit in a garden or nature park, you'll hear birds, cicadas in summer, and the sound of the breeze in the trees. You'll see that breeze move the leaves and branches, and regard the slow passing of the sun across the sky. You'll see clouds form and change, feel the air on your skin, and observe butterflies moving from plant to plant. Flowers open and close with the sun, plants grow through the days and change with the seasons; trees flower, and leaves dry and fall off. All of these are gradual, slow things, each happening in its time. Nature accomplishes what's needed deliberately and slowly, compared to our regular days. When we sit in nature, we remember that, and feel the peace that comes from regulating our bodies again with that slower, gentler, more deliberate pace.
When we go on without stopping to sit in these natural rhythms, our bodies get more and more out of step with what they need. We feel stress, discomfort, or frustration; we get sick, or feel overwhelmed or disheartened. When you sit in a garden or take a walk in the bush, your body resets itself to those natural rhythms from which it came. This helps us feel calm, encouraged, hopeful, less frustrated and stressed in general, more open to possibilities, and less likely to snap at someone (including ourselves). Things seem to have their place, and we can manage them again.
This is why 'being in nature' isn't just for excursions and special events - to be left to the weekend, when there's time. We need it regularly. At lunch, during the day, and in the evening. Have plants in your office (real ones, ideally), water and take care of them; have natural light and some trees or other nature in your view, if at all possible. Give enough time for lunch that people can go to a park or for a walk. They need more than a prepared sandwich in a plastic container from the canteen/café nearby and a bench with concrete and maybe some ordered grass and spiky plants to view. Think about how the photos I've included in this blog post have affected you as you look at them (they're my own; no special effects and no amazing places; just simple and real - the kinds of places anyone can be in). Even that has a calming and (small) restorative effect. Consider the power that nature has, even in this removed form. Add to that the greater benefits of being actually in it.
Let yourself, and those in your care, reset to the slower rhythms of nature, and reap the rewards.
Tamara - Sensitive Thrive is my consulting business. I believe that the world needs Highly Sensitive people who are flourishing. We need their hope, insight, wisdom, and awareness of beauty and possibility. My vision is to help create a culture where this temperament is known, understood and valued; where organisations seek Highly Sensitive people to work for them, because they know what they can do. Where HS people feel like they fit in their workplaces, because those workplaces also fit them. A world where HS people belong, thrive, and flourish, and the world is better for it.