What an adjustment we have all had to make, but one that seems a little easier for those who are lucky enough to have a garden or access to green spaces.
While we humans struggle to make sense of our new circumstances, nature is blissfully oblivious and continues to bloom and grow, and in the natural world, life carries on.
After spending time in nature, whether going for one of my country walks or pottering in my garden, I enjoy a sense of tranquillity. I often wondered why connecting to the natural world has such a calming effect on me. There is something about the quiet calm of nature that is so appealing, leaving a quiet calm in my mind.
Could our interaction with nature be operating at a deeper subconscious level, reflecting our evolutionary origins and cultural development?
Human’s innate attraction to nature forms the basis of Biophilia, which means ‘love of nature’. It implies that through thousands of years living as agricultural societies we all have developed an innate connection to the natural world.
It is now accepted by the scientific and medical community that spending time immersed in nature is good for our mental wellbeing. The fact that we spend about 85% of our time indoors means that most of us are deprived of exposure to nature.
Spending time outside interacting with nature has been found to help with anxiety and depression. For example, research into ecotherapy (a type of formal treatment which involves doing activities outside in nature) has shown it can ease mild to moderate depression.
In Japan the benefits of immersing yourself in nature is known as shinrin-yoku, or ‘forest bathing’. In the 1980’s it was developed by the Japanese as a form ‘plant therapy practice’ and has become an important component of preventative health care and healing in Japanese medicine.
They found that being immersed in nature creates calming neuro-psychological effects through changes in the nervous system, reducing the stress hormone cortisol and boosting the immune system, and has led to reductions in stress, anger, anxiety, depression and sleeplessness amongst the participants and improved mental clarity.
What’s more, according to a recent study conducted by Dr Miles Richardson*, head of psychology at the University of Derby, spending time in nature can also reduce hypertension, respiratory tract and cardiovascular illnesses; improve vitality and mood and restore attention capacity and mental fatigue. Additionally, he found that feeling a part of nature has a direct correlation with life satisfaction, vitality, meaningfulness, happiness and mindfulness.
If these facts alone don’t have you reaching for the door, some of the greatest minds in history were renowned nature walkers, (Aristotle, Charles Dickens, Beethoven, Barrack Obama and even Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg!), using it as a way to clear the mind, problem solve and boost their creativity.
So with all this in mind, shouldn’t we all be spending more time in nature? There really is no better time to make the most of the green spaces around you or simply pull up a chair next to your favourite plant and just…breathe.