I go to nature to be soothed and healed, and to have my senses put in order.
Few words describe the healing power of nature as aptly as American naturalist and conservationist’s above ones. The virtues of nature-immersion have long since been exalted. After all, the modern man of today has evolved in nature itself, through times immemorable. Despite being caught up in the warp of industrial advancements and materialistic gains, somewhere, we still hold this primordial connection with our primitive way of life- rustics, rugged and rejuvenating.
When was the last time you felt the gentle breeze swishing through the forest leaves? Or the crunching of dry dirt as you walked a nature trail, leaving behind the worries of urban advancement? Imagine. The verdant greens filling you with clean and crisp life-giving oxygen, a luxury for those who dwell in urban areas. These refreshing and rejuvenating effects of nature on the human mind and body are not a new discovery. They have been known since quite some time. It is only now, that scientific explanations have been construed to explain the problems caused by lack of nature-exposure. In fact, it has been termed a very real condition, called Nature-Deficit Disorder. The term was first coined by Richard Louv in his 2005 book, “Last Child in the Woods”. It outlined how human beings, especially children, were spending less time outdoors, and this was resulting in a wide range of behavioural problems.
Nature Therapy in the Past
Way back in 1984, a research by RS Ulrich found that hospital patients recovered from surgery quicker if their room offered a view of nature compared to those who looked out on a brick wall. This was some of the initial scientific research that established the case for connecting with nature. Another study of more than 1200 adults, established the relationship between outdoor recreation and depression among older adults, concluding that adults who had not engaged in outdoor recreation in the past year were more prone to major depression. Those who spent time outside four or more times a week were the least likely to be depressed. Yet another study has shown that health increased with the amount of greenspace in one’s living environment. These and other studies reinforce what we already know and experience- that Mother Nature is a nurturing healer, with her refreshing, rejuvenating and relaxing ways.
Helping People Heal
Ever felt like you are living in an age of information overload?
Overwhelmed while juggling the impossible, playing various roles all at once and upholding impossible commitments?
This is the story of every modern-day individual. In today’s fast-paced and commercialized world, where is the time to take a moment for oneself, to let go of built-up thoughts, fears, and pay homage to our innermost aspirations and wishes? This is where a healing touch is needed, to take us back in time to the real us- humans who were connected to and grew amidst nature.
The benefits of nature immersion extend beyond mere “feeling good”. Helping people heal through nature or ecotherapy is therefore, emerging as a promising field to restore normalcy to our hyper-rushed lives. If you need more convincing to drop your brunch plans for a walk in the woods, here is a look at the real, tangible physiological and psychological effects of nature-immersion:
- Lowers heart rate: A good thing since it calms our minds and removes negative energy.
- Boosts immunity: Natural smells and sights activate the natural killer cells of our body, making us tough fighters.
- Generates positive emotions: Being awed by nature is known to boost emotions like compassion, generosity and connect with oneself and others.
- Establishes closer social connections: Nature encourages easy connections with others, fostering friendships. Many studies have shown that stronger social bonding occurs amongst people who live near nature.
- Fosters learning: Exploratory play in nature is a great way to fuel curiosity, boost concentration
- Uplifts moods: Being out in nature reduces activity of the brain’s part that are associated with low moods and depression. A study by Stanford psychologist showed that amongst park-walkers and street-walkers, part-walkers reported lesser sad thoughts.
- Resets our body clock: Natural light aka Vitamin D has the ability to align and reset our body clock by stabilizing the melatonin levels. This makes for better quality sleep and thereby, a less stressed day.
These are only some of the marvellous manifestations of nature-immersion. Over and above this, there is the feeling of being humbled by the might and scale of natural elements! It is no surprise, that poets and other artists constantly spent time in nature, to gain inspiration for their creative pursuits.
How to Indulge in Nature Therapy
- Meditate in a natural place, where the breeze lulls you and natural sounds enchant you.
- If unable to find a natural place, close your eyes and visualize yourself walking through a natural space- the mountains or a beach or a wooded park.
- Grow potted plants in your workspace or home.
- Connect with nature through food i.e. eating wholesome, natural, unprocessed foods.
- Exercise outdoors, it results in lesser fatigue than exercising indoors, say a gym.
- Escape to nature sounds for some time in the day. If a natural sound-space is not available to you, listen to nature sounds like gurgling water, bird song etc. on an app.
- Spend some time observing sunlight through a prism, the natural beauty of the visible spectrum is sure to nature-awe you.
- Write down your feelings when you think about or experience nature for real. Nature-reflection is a great way to kindle some of the same emotions as you would experience while being in nature.
The key to extracting the most from nature is to let nature thrive, and realizing that we are just a tiny part of the bigger picture. As much as we take from nature, we must give back. We must do our bit to help conserve the beautiful natural places and species that surround us with unbounded joy and infuse us with wonderful wellbeing.
Article By: Rhucha Kulkarni