“In every walk with nature one receives far more than one seeks.” – John Muir
In the last stage of an anxiety relief meditation that I do, I think of a person or place that I love, allowing that feeling to fill me up, and slowly letting it expand out of me.
Sometimes I think of my family and my time with them for this. But most of the times, it is my time at the Radhanagar beach, the pristine white sand beach in the Andaman Islands. I can almost never put into words what being there made me feel like, and this exercise takes me back right there, feeling the warm sea breeze on my face, as I behold the majestic waves in the turquoise waters.
I’m sure I’m not alone in this. If I were to ask you to think of your favorite place, what’s it going to be? If you’re stressed, isn’t who being closer to nature one of the things you seek as a relief from the stress? Don’t we all always get into discussions about who gets the window seat?
Natural environments have a tremendous impact on our emotions and improve our well-being. Nature is restorative, calming and it makes us happy.
In a study conducted by Mind, a mental health charity organization, a nature walk reduced symptoms of depression in 71% of participants, compared to only 45% of those who took a walk through a shopping center.
There have been many other studies that have shown that exposure to natural elements reduces stress and anxiety, improves mood and energy levels, improves cognitive performance, speeds up recovery, stabilizes blood pressure, improves sleep quality and strengthens the immune system. Ecotherapy, also known as Nature Therapy or Green Therapy use nature-based approaches for healing.
There is a good explanation for the way we feel about nature. Our habit of seeking out nature, and the palpable connection we feel with it, is because of Biophilia, a term that was coined by the renowned biologist Edward O. WIlson. ‘Biophilia’ is derived from the Greek words ‘bios’ (organic life) and ‘philia’ (love).
“Biophilia is an innate and genetically determined love for the natural world felt universally by humankind. “
Simply put, it is our innate biological connection with nature that stems from our evolutionary history. Seeking out nature is a basic human need.
In these times of physical distancing, as more and more of us are working from home, it becomes all the more important for us to keep honoring our relationship with nature, in every way we can.
How to include more nature in your life?
There are 3 types of contacts with nature:
1) Outdoor Nature Contact
2) Indoor Nature Contact
3) Indirect Nature Contact
If you can go walk, jog, cycle or do yoga in parks or other safe areas, by all means do that. Outdoor Nature Contact is the most beneficial for your health and wellness. But if you’re not able to go outdoors in nature or don’t yet find it safe to do so, it is time to bring nature indoors, and get your daily dose of indoor and indirect nature contact.
Indoor Nature Contact:
- Open your windows: One of the things I’m most grateful for about my apartment is the bright morning sun I get into my living and dining area. Natural Light affects our overall well-being, and that should be no surprise to those who find overcast days to be gloomy. Open your blinds or curtains, and let the sunshine in. If you have a view from the window or balcony that looks over trees, or any other natural landscape, sit by the window or in the balcony for your daily cuppa.
- Welcome indoor plants: Houseplants will do much more than act as decorative accessories or purify the air. Studies have shown that they have a healing effect on you, both physiological and psychological. You can start with succulents which are the easiest indoor plants to maintain. I can guarantee you will form a strong bond with your plants as you nurture them and they grow before your eyes; I wish my dracaena a good morning every day.
- Garden related activities: If you can, please plan a kitchen garden at your home. Digging soil, planting seedlings, weeding garden beds, and trimming leaves are known to promote well-being in Horticulture Therapy. For those who don’t have the space for this, regrow your vegetables from scrap. This will help you feel connected with nature and you’ll have a deeper appreciation for all your fruits and vegetables. You can start with green onions and leeks, which are the easiest to regrow in just water.
Indirect Nature Contact:
Nature for your senses: Let nature fall upon your ears – use nature sounds for meditation, wash your dishes with soothing sounds of flowing water or tweeting birds. These will be pleasant changes from the construction or traffic noise you may have got used to living in the city.
You can also keep photographs of nature as your TV, phone or laptop screensavers and wallpapers.
Include smells of nature in your home – essential oil diffusers are a great option; I love the calming and soothing smell of lavender oil. Essential oil scented soy candles would make for a perfect evening ritual.
Biophilia is the connection with nature you didn’t know you always had. And now that you know how much of an impact your natural environment has on you, you can choose to invite more peace and well-being into your home by incorporating as many of these nature contacts as you can.
Living in harmony with nature, close to nature, is the only happily ever after.