This spring I read two books that have motivated me to increase my time in nature. Not that I needed any more motivation, having just finished a five-year stint in private practice just outside of Boston. This was a great personal and professional experience in many ways, but an hour-long commute into the city coupled with busy days sitting and conducting talk therapy left me feeling achy in my body and soul.
And so I’m spending the next chunk of my life closer to nature in my native state of New Hampshire. I’m not sure what daily life will be like, but I’m certain that it will include more time outside.
I love technology and the opportunities it creates, but I am feeling an almost animal-like urge to run in the woods, walk barefoot, and splash in waterfalls. Maybe you feel the same way? After all, we humans are a part of the natural world.
Florence William’s book, The Nature Fix, and Go Wild, written by John J. Ratey, MD, and Richard Manning remind us of our connection to the natural world, and the many rewards – both physical and mental – of spending time in nature.
And the good news is we don’t have to sign up for a triathlon or hike a major mountain range to reap these rewards. All we need is the direct experience of being outside. This time doesn’t have to be goal-directed, but mindfulness will help us absorb the gifts of nature.
Here’s a handful of facts from The Nature Fix, and Go Wild to help motivate you to explore your animal nature:
~ Biophilia – Simply put, the term Biophilia refers to the human affinity for nature. We feel best in natural surroundings because we evolved in nature. Living things thrive around living things. When we are outside, we are making full use of our five senses. The dull veil of indoor light is lifted, and the world becomes 3D once more.
~ When we breathe in fresh air and natural scents our nervous system is soothed. Speaking of senses, are you losing yours? Studies show that we are only using a fraction of the potential of our sense of smell compared to our hunter/gatherer ancestors. Certain scents in nature have been shown to reduce blood pressure and cortisol levels and that living in urban settings can decrease our sense of smell.
~ trauma symptoms. Time in nature has been shown to reduce trauma symptoms.
~ Treadmill versus the trail. Running or walking outside engages much more neurological activity than running or walking on a treadmill. In fact, modern gyms are designed to help you tune out of your body by distracting you with loud music and plenty of screens. Gyms are a great resource in bad weather, but as much as possible, take your workout outside.
I’d like to place a bet – or maybe it’s a wish. Now that many of us can work almost anywhere, we will start to migrate back to more rural areas, small town main streets will come back to life, and with it a greater sense of community and belonging.
~ Outdoor play. Trying a new game outside helps you increase the positive emotions of humor and curiosity. These two emotions open and expand creativity and possibilities.
~ Up your Awe quotient. Taking in a natural scene is inspirational, and helps broaden our perspective and take life less seriously.
~ Nature boosts our immune system. One study in Japan showed a 40% decrease in sick leave simply by placing potted plants in a workspace.
~ Other benefits include increased community, empathy and help with changing addictive behavior.
Don’t forget – we are nature. I urge to you check out the new research on nature, but more importantly, I urge to get outside, maybe without your shoes, and remember your wild self. Now more than ever, we need to stay mindful of the fact that we are part of the natural world.
The World Health Organization tells us that as of 2008, a greater percentage of our species live in urban areas. I’d like to place a bet – or maybe it’s a wish. Now that many of us can work almost anywhere, we will start to migrate back to more rural areas, small town main streets will come back to life, and with it a greater sense of community and belonging. It’s what our wild ancestors had. I can dream, can’t I?
Share my dream? How do you stay mindful of your natural self? Contact us at mindful hub.
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