“Just living is not enough… one must have sunshine, freedom and a little flower.” – Hans Christian Andersen
Life was quite different for our caveman brothers and sisters who lived some 3.7 million years ago.
They sustained themselves through hunting and gathering. They lived in shelters made of animal hide, bones, wood and mounds of dirt. They used pigments made from oxidized iron and various minerals to color pottery, tools, and even paint cryptic symbols in caves. They congregated at communal camp sites to share meals that consisted of fresh animal meat, fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds and legumes.
For thousands of years, our species lived this basic and no-frills lifestyle. In fact, 99.9% of the human experience was lived in this hunter-gatherer context, which gave early humans the freedom to roam through the lands freely and have direct contact with the flora and fauna on it. This simple and balanced way of living was sustainable because it’s exactly what we were built for.
Our ancestors developed an intimate bond to nature and found divinity in their natural surrounding. This deep reverence gave rise to Animism, which is the belief that everything on the planet has a spirit or a soul. This includes rocks, mountains, rivers, animals, and even plants. They believed it was important to respect the spirit of anima by living in harmony with the land and all the creatures that occupied it.
Fast forward a couple of millennia and we now find ourselves living in today’s fast-paced world, filled with high-tech marvels made of plastic, concrete, glass and steel. All our modern conveniences have come with a heavy price of us having to deal with its side effects – a high-stress lifestyle, exposure to environmental toxins, loud noises, processed foods and unnatural radiation fields.
Even though we’re wanderers at heart, with a spirit that yearns to be free in the wide-open world, we confine ourselves to a boxed-up lifestyle that is mostly indoors, sedentary, socially isolating and artificial. Not many of us city-dwellers have the luxury to get off the modern-day treadmill to appreciate a sunset or a night sky, to walk by an ocean or a river, or to take in the magnificence of a mountain range.
Depriving ourselves of nature’s bounty is going against our very essence, and can cause a major imbalance in our system. When we are no longer grounded to earth, we feel worn down and vulnerable to several stress-related diseases like diabetes, heart problems, asthma, allergies, obesity and cancer.
The solution is for us to find pockets of time in our schedule, during which we can get back to basics. That doesn’t mean that we go back to living that way Neanderthals did, but that we borrow a page or two from them. We proactively search for creative ways to escape the concrete jungles that most of us inhabit, and transport ourselves into spaces that are wild, open and relatively untouched by man.
Take a walk in the park during your lunch break or type out your novel while sitting on the beach. Grow your own garden and make time to water and prune it. If you have more free time on your hands, go out on treks or camping trips to the closest natural surroundings near you. Relish the feeling of cool breezes on your face as you take a bike ride by a lake. As you can see, the options to be outdoors are endless.
Forging a connection with Mother Nature is healing because it allows you to leave your worries behind and experience a renewed sense of vitality and spiritual exuberance. Here are five more reasons why you should be spending more time in nature:
1. You’ll get away from societal influences: When you live in the thick of civilization, you’re subject to all the man-made constructs and rules. You may not realize it, but the collective trends, pressures and norms have a major impact on the way you think and behave. In a natural environment, you’re not constrained by any of this. Your mind can return to its natural state of pure consciousness that synchronizes with the rhythm of the universe. You’ll have an opportunity to return to your most authentic and real self, devoid of all the external influences that you usually face.
2. You’ll be more influenced to save the planet: The more you witness our planet’s beauty, the more you’d want to care for it. This tendency has been attested by the journal of Environmental Psychology, which states that individuals who are exposed to nature are more likely to demonstrate environmentally-sustainable behaviors such as recycling and purchasing environmentally-friendly products. Speaking from experience, I know that whenever I witness a beautiful, natural sight, I get inspired to influence others to shift their lifestyle towards one that is balanced and in harmony with our planet’s ecosystem.
3. It’s a healing experience that calms your nerves: Ever wonder why so many relaxation CDs have sounds of nature (such as birds chirping and the oceans waves) in the background? It’s because nature has a naturally calming effect on us. No matter how frazzled we are, it can instantly calm our nerves by eliciting a sense of peace and serenity. So potent is its effect on our system that it’s actually been accepted as a therapeutic modality in the mental health community. Ecotherapy is now being widely used to lower depression and treat stress-related symptoms in patients. In a study done by the University of Essex, taking a walk in nature had lowered the depression score in 71 percent of participants!
4. It will boost your mind and body: There’s no denying that spending more time outdoors is great for your health and wellbeing. Why? First, you’ll have the opportunity to be physically active, as you’ll have to either walk or engage in some other form of movement. Second, you’ll get some fresh air that’s uncontaminated by pollution and cigarette smoke, and be exposed to sunshine. A combination of these benefits will enhance your memory, make your mind sharper, and significantly boost your mood. Besides being a stress reliever, time spent in nature will boost your immunity, improve the quality of your sleep, and decrease your risk of several diseases such as cancer, heart disease, diabetes and arthritis.
5. It will give you a spiritual perspective on life: When you’re intimate with nature, you’ll have the chance to witness the real essence of life in all its complex glory. You’ll become less cynical and gain a deeper understanding of life, as you witness the realities of the prevailing laws that govern the Earth, like the seasons, cycles and the food chain. Below all the apparent randomness and chaos, you’ll see that there’s a universal order that exists. You’ll stop taking life for granted and value every moment, because nature will remind you of how fragile and fleeting life can be. You’ll be humbled when reminded of how small we are in the grand scheme of things, which motivates us to make our mark in the world.
The next time you find yourself in the great wide open, close your eyes and take a few deep breaths. Tap into your primal nature – let it remind you of your place in the great circle of life and how your spirit is, and always will be, connected to all the splendor that surrounds you.
All my best on your journey,
Question for you: Do you wish you could spend more time with nature? How does being out in nature affect you?
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