As a nurse and health coach, I ask my clients about stress management practices: People often tell me the place where they feel a sense of ease and relief from our busy world is in nature.
It’s no wonder, really. Humans have a very long history with nature…our whole history, actually. Fossil records suggests that humans have been around for about 200,000 years, but its only been in the last 150 years, about 0.1% of human history, that we’ve turned our sights indoors and altered our close connection with nature.
I’m not nostalgically hoping for a return to old ways. However, I do think we miss nature and the pace of the natural world. The gentle, earthy pace of nature is such a stark contrast to the whirlwind of activity that our man-made life contains: the pace of our thoughts, commitments, communication, and of images that flicker upon screens throughout our day.
I think we miss the subtlety of nature: the soft hues, wind-worn edges, the texture of the earth, shadow and scent. It contrasts directly with modern life, where manufacturers and marketers are vying for our attention and dollar with less and less subtlety. Products and services contain a constantly increasing array of brazen and unnatural scents and sights. It sets us up to believe that everything in life should be constantly amazing, including our food, homes, clothes and career.
But, honestly, what I think we miss most about nature is this: she asks nothing of us. Unlike most other aspects of our lives, we don’t need to be responsive, or “on” in nature. Nature doesn’t care if our mascara is clumpy, if we said the right thing at a meeting or if our waistband is tight. She just enfolds us in her ethereal expansiveness and contains the whole of us: both our goodness and our messy parts. It is so refreshing to abandon the speed, brazenness and judgment of our pressured lives and fall into the slow, soft, kindness of Nature.
Recent studies in positive psychology show a relationship between how related we feel to nature and our sense of well-being. Can you support your well-being by taking the time to connect with nature?
- Take a walk. ANY kind walk is a gift. Even in the city, surrounded by skyscrapers and buildings, enjoying nature is possible. Gaze at the sky, feel the wind, and enjoy the antics of wildlife.
- Sit and observe. Even a few moments of being still and observing nature can offer the essence of being in nature. Take time, at a window, on a stoop or a park bench to sit still and just BE.
- Volunteer. Many organizations need people share their talents in the outdoors. Consider volunteering for a conservation organization, a local farm, zoo or park to experience the gift of being outdoors.
Spring is the perfect time to be in nature as the warmer air beckons us out to reconnect with the slow, soft, kindness of nature and live briefly in her soft embrace.