“Nature spontaneously keeps us well. Do not resist her!”
-Henry David Thoreau
We are being told to wash our hands, frequently; to cover our mouths when sneezing or coughing; and to practice social distancing. This is for the common good, and I support it completely and unflinchingly. We all have to protect those more vulnerable and at risk.
But not a lot is being said about how to support our own well-being in this time of Coronavirus. Reading good books and watching good films and TV series are absolutely on my list of things to do during this time of social distancing. But I am finding that walks in nature and on the beach have become even more crucial to me these days.
A dear friend of mine is staying with me at the moment. We read the news daily, well several times a day to be honest, and wring our hands and weep with helplessness and frustration. How can so many people have lost sight of the common good? And how can so many members of the current U.S. government be so selfish and greedy?
My friend says she finds solace sitting on my couch looking out my window at the big pohutukawa tree growing in my neighbor’s yard. She finds it soothing, and says it brings to her what she can only call a state of awe.
As we sit on the deck and look at the tree, I am reminded that nature heals. According to Environmental Psychology: “Just a walk in the woods or a stroll by the beach on a sunny morning can awaken the innermost feelings of happiness and peace.”
In this time, where we are told to keep our social distance, we must be mindful of what author Richard Louv calls ‘Nature-Deficit Disorder’.
Nature-deficit disorder is not the presence of an anomaly in the brain; it is the loss of connection of humans to their natural environment. Staying close to nature improves physical, mental, and spiritual well-being. It makes us feel alive from the inside.
Research has shown that spending longer periods of time in nature has huge physical benefits. Some of these benefits include:
- Optimum nervous system functions, well-balanced heart conditions, and reduced bowel disorders.
- Reducing the chances of developing eyesight problems like hypermetropia and myopia.
- Lower BMI; less fatigue and fewer chances of suffering from obesity.
- Production of anti-cancer proteins and help in fighting terminal diseases.
- Stronger immune system.
It has been repeatedly stated that we need to keep our immune system strong to fight Covid-19.
Other studies have shown that time in nature improves psychological well-being. This can include:
- Significant mood improvement for all people, even those suffering from mild to major depressive disorders.
- Reducing stress by lowering the stress hormone cortisol.
The level of stress and anxiety has skyrocketed since this virus was detected, so anything that offers stress reduction is a gift.
So even if you are doing all the right things – washing your hands frequently, covering your mouth when you sneeze or cough, and being vigilant in your social distancing, you can still take care of your well-being. The evidence is there. The studies have been done. Get out into nature!
As Frank Lloyd Wright so astutely said, “Study Nature, love Nature, stay close to Nature. It will never fail you.”