If you knew there was a secret remedy that could reduce stress, promote a healthy body-image, and significantly improve your mental health, you would grab it with both hands right?
Well the world does hold this remedy, in nature. Simply spending time surrounded by nature, even small patches of greenery in an inner city area, has a whole range of benefits for your health.
Nature as Therapy
Ecotherapy is a practice which has at its heart our connection to the natural world. It works by increasing the time we spend in nature, and celebrates the various restorative effects this has on our body, mind, and soul.
There are many theories as to why an immersion in nature feels so good, but a lot come back to the same idea known as the ‘Biophilia Hypothesis’. Essentially, we love nature as humans because we evolved in it, it’s in our DNA.
We feel drawn to nature and if we commit to spending time in it, and enter into an open communication with it, we begin to develop a greater understanding of the world around us and, in turn, ourselves.
By giving nature greater access to your life, you can reap these rewards. Here are 7 ways nature teaches us about life and nurtures our souls:
Nature knows no labels
Western modern society is built on a foundation of quick shortcuts that we use to quickly interpret, and oftentimes judge, our fellow citizens to determine how we should interact with them. People’s job titles, clothes style, and social class all construct for us a picture of a person.
Nature does away with these labels, giving you a refreshing new approach to life. You know what a flower is by smelling it, touching it, noticing its colours- you can’t ask it to tell you what it is.
Not only does this develop your inquisitive nature, but it frees you from society’s expectations and the limitations that these impose on you.
Studies have shown that it is this escape from societal pressures, distractions, and demands that reduces ‘brain fatigue’, a condition caused by cognitive overload, common in modern society.
As little as 25 minutes strolling in nature was enough to significantly reduce participants’ levels of frustration.
Nature is perfect in its imperfections
Trees aren’t uniform, and not every flower would make it into a bouquet, but nature doesn’t care.
By being alone in nature and noticing the kinks in the tree trunk, or the ruffled feathers of a bird, you are actually opening up a two-way communication channel.
Nature is showing you that it isn’t always perfect, that it simply is.
Combine this with its lack of labels, and you feel free to be yourself, growing in your self-image and self-worth.
Nature is huge
As humans, we feel humbled by the scale of nature; the size of a mountain, the power of the ocean’s waves. Suddenly, our place on the planet is put into perspective.
This experience is brilliant for de-stressing; when viewed from the top of a hill, your problems seem tiny, visualizing the things you’ve been worrying about fluttering through the forest makes it seem insignificant, and you begin to feel like you can take on anything.
Nature isn’t bound by time
Having a bad Monday? Nature doesn’t know what day of the week it is, so every day is the same. Time as we interpret it is an economic structure which we created: the ‘working week’.
After even just a little while in nature, free from the constant ticking of the clock, you realise that nature always was and always will be. You’ll start to notice natural rhythms around you and find solace in them, after not too long, you’ll become more attuned to your body’s own rhythms.
This is another great de-stresser and you’ll find this non-time will, even if only temporarily, bring about a meditative, restorative state in your body and mind.
Nature makes you surrender comfort and control
Although this sounds counter-intuitive, the importance of placing yourself outside of your comfort zone is huge. Not only does this help you to develop as a person, but more importantly, it reminds you of nature’s power and its importance.
Today’s world is a world of home comforts; from temperature control in our houses, to electricity powering lights to keep us awake late into the night. But surrendering to nature means you spend your time living more instinctively.
You become attuned to changes in the atmosphere, or the sounds around you, and have to work out the impact these changes might have on you – is there shelter nearby if it starts to rain?
Away from home comforts such as electronic devices, our brains flourish, and actually start to restore functions that have been taxed by technology such as attention span, multi-tasking ability, and creativity, according to studies on nature’s impact on our minds.
Nature stimulates your senses
The first time you step into a forest, you instantly feel a change, it’s a completely different space to built-up areas, but this goes much further than the immediate visual change. The new smells, sounds, sights, and even textures that you’re introduced to stimulate your senses in completely new ways.
Research shows that over time, exposure of your senses to new stimulation helps to sharpen them, in turn making them more sensitive to more new scents, sounds, tastes, sights and touches.
Simultaneously, nature strips away a lot of modern society’s stimulations which can overload your sensory receptors, and muddle the brain.
Most people first notice the silence of a forest, for example, or the delicate scent of ocean spray that hasn’t come from an aerosol can. This stripping back to simpler, cleaner, more natural stimulations will create clarity in your life, and strengthen your relationship with nature as you experience it with all of your senses.
Nature is the same as you
Probably the most important way that nature connects with your spirit can be summed up in the simple fact that nature is one and the same as you are. We already understand that our evolutionary roots spread firmly throughout the history of nature; everything has evolved over time from the same origins, and an immersion in nature reminds us that we are one and the same.
It can be a profound experience to realize this connection to the earth and embrace it. This realization brings with it a great release of stress; suddenly we see a wider picture of the Earth and our place on it.
Think of nature as a doorway to a deeper understanding of the world, Earth has always held that door wide open to us and we’ve built cities on it. By returning to pure nature, or introducing it into our everyday lives, we can reap a range of immediate and long-term health benefits whilst deepening our understanding and appreciation of the world and our place in it.