Have you ever had a hectic day and headed straight on a nature walk to clear your mind? It is a common and excellent habit to seek nature when you are feeling down or disconnected from yourself or others. There is a lot of evidence to support that a connection to the natural world is good for human health, happiness, and overall well-being. Why is this?
One strong reason is that humans are a part of nature. Although our modern society brings us away from nature, we have historically been integrated with forests, lakes, and swamps. One easy way to connect with nature is noting three positive things about it every day (e.g., a bird tweeting, a subtle breeze, or a sparkle of sun on waves). By reflecting on our place in nature, we can better understand our experiences in the world around us.
In the past, nature has been honored because of its calming effects. Think about our buildings and human-made structures: right angles and rigid lines. But when in a forest, do you see the those shapes? Seeing natural arcs and circles of nature relax our mind from an evolutionary standpoint because bends, like those of a fern, are more flexible and resilient. When studying peoples’ reactions to natural verse urban environments, Dr. Miles Richardson, founder of Nature Connectedness Research Group at the University of Derby, found that woodsy areas calmed the nervous system whereas an urban environment stimulated fear and threat
. Many indigenous cultures recognize the significance of connecting with the Earth. Consider this quote from Luther Standing Bear, Native American
author, educator, philosopher, and actor:
“The old people came literally to love the soil… The soul was soothing, strengthening, cleansing and healing… For him, to sit or lie upon the ground is to be able to think more deeply and to feel more keenly. He can see more clearly into the mysteries of life and come closer in kinship to other lives about him.”
Our relationship with the natural environment is the most apparent and important because it impacts all other aspects of life such as the body and self. An ecological balance catalyzes social balance and eliminates negative emotions. This in turn, raises one’s consciousness and commitment to the planet. Spending time in nature helps us reflect on our own being. SHADOW’s guided nature walks and other events outdoor events are a great way to connect to the natural world.
By: Gabi Esparza