Imagine you are standing in the middle of a city. With cars whizzing past you, and people skimming your shoulders as they rush past. Noise and chaos engulf you. How do you feel? Now, imagine you are standing next to the ocean. There isn’t another soul in sight. All you can hear is the metronomic sound of the waves. How do you feel?
Mother Nature has gifted us an incredible world. Our planet is rich with exquisite landscapes, plants and animals. Science has proven time and again that those of us who connect with nature are happier.
Maybe you already appreciate nature. But could you find a deeper connection? In this article, we will discuss how nature can make you happier, including 5 tips on how to embrace nature.
The healing effects of nature
Adults who spend over 120 minutes a week in nature report greater health and wellbeing than those who don’t spend time in nature.
Nature impacts our emotional and physical wellbeing and improves both. Being in nature, or even seeing images of nature reduces our fears and anxieties. It also increases our pleasant feelings. Physically it reduces our blood pressure, heart rate, stress hormone production and muscle tension.
In nature, nothing is perfect and everything is perfect.Alice Walker
When I am feeling overwhelmed and panicked, my body creates an internal calling to go to the beach. I crave the inner peace of an early morning walk on the beach with my dogs.
All I can hear is the ocean. All I can feel is the wind on my face. Nature has a remarkable way of absorbing my mind into the present. Nature merges our thoughts with the landscape around us.
Experience nature with your senses
When we engage all our senses, we find a deeper connection. Very often we go through life relying on one sense at a time. We may not pay attention to all the sensory information coming our way. Heck, we might not have time. But let’s make the time.
I would love for you to experience nature with all of your senses. Next time you go for a walk in nature, focus on one sense at a time.
What can you see, feel, taste, hear or smell? When we engage all of our senses we find a grounding and invite a sense of calm.
On my walk yesterday, I could smell the sweet coconut smell of the budding gorse bush. I could hear the flow of the water in the river. I could feel light raindrops on my face. And I could taste a dampness in the air.
Spring is coming and my senses are acutely aware of this. I feel alive and full of hope and anticipation for the newness to come. I associate spring with opportunity.
5 ways to embrace nature
We all have access to nature. Think about it. Even if we are stuck in a hospital bed, what is a common gift people bring? Why, plants and flowers of course.
Even when nature seems inaccessible, there are always ways to embrace nature. Maybe we could press flowers or paint landscapes. Perhaps we would enjoy collecting shells on the beach, using them to create art.
Here are 5 ideas to help embrace nature and discover the many benefits that nature has on our mental health.
1. Get out the gym
Are you someone who spends hours in the gym? Firstly, good for you. I admire your discipline. But you are missing the greatest gym of all time. The gym that Mother Nature created.
How about lacing up your trainers and experiencing a trail run. Use branches for pull-ups. Get mud on your hands doing press-ups on the ground.
Listen to the birds, feel the rising sun on your face as you run. Find yourself lost in the present moment.
I go to nature to be soothed and healed, and to have my senses put in order.John Burroughs
When compared to exercising inside, exercising outside is superior in many ways. It improves our mental wellbeing, leaves us feeling more revitalized, energized and positive. Participants of this study reported feeling a greater sense of enjoyment when exercising outside.
2. Take up gardening
If you have a garden, fantastic. Roll up your sleeves and get your hands covered with soil. It’s time to get creating, designing and planting. Do you want to go with something aesthetically pleasing? Or perhaps you want a functional and edible garden. Maybe you want an insect-friendly garden?
And not to worry. If you don’t have a garden, you can still garden.
Many community centers take on volunteers to help with the gardening. Why not seek them out?
Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better.Albert Einstein
It may come as no surprise that gardening is associated with improved public health. Not only has it been shown to reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression. But it is also linked with an increase in quality of life, sense of connection and cognitive function.
As if you need any other reason to get your hands dirty!
3. Go on adventures
We all have a different sense of adventure. There is nothing wrong with this. What is a challenging adventure for me can be a mere breeze for you. An adventure might be hiking in the Himalayan mountains, or walking in your local woods. We define our adventure.
The important thing is we go on adventures that meet our own definition of adventure.
Maybe that’s camping. Maybe it’s hiking up a mountain. Or maybe it’s working with an animal orphanage in another country.
Whatever an adventure looks like to you, seek it out. Plan it and live it.
When we take ourselves on adventures, we merge the sense of a journey with exercise or movement. We stimulate our senses and boost our confidence with a sense of accomplishment.
Adventures are great for the soul. We are never too old for adventures.
4. Seek to observe animals in their natural habitat
Have you ever watched a swan fly above you? Their wingspan is incredible! Have you observed dolphins frolicking in the sea? Next time a butterfly passes you, stop and watch as she flies in a drunken haphazard line to the next flower.
There is an indescribable wonderment that comes from watching magnificent creatures in their natural habitat.
I remember spotting koalas in the trees during my backpacking days in Australia. I came across several bears in my time in Canada. Both times I was overcome with a sense of marvel and privilege.
Those moments have stayed with me. They bring me joy just recalling them.
5. Encourage nature
We can all do our bit to help and encourage nature. From placing water dishes out for wildlife to building bee hotels.
A while ago, I spotted a rare red squirrel in my garden. Determined to increase these sightings I built a couple of squirrel feeders and attached them to the trees. Now, I am visited on a daily basis by at least 3 red flames. I can sit in the comfort of my own bedroom and watch my squirrels play. When I first saw them use the feeder, I cried tears of joy.
When we create an overlap with nature, we experience a sense of connection. A bridge between ourselves and Mother Nature. Believe me, it’s beautiful.
If you build it, they will come.
From bird feeders to insect hotels. A little bit of online research will keep you right.
Then, just sit back and enjoy the interaction.
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When we take time in nature, we are giving ourselves time to connect with ourselves. You don’t need to be a mountaineer or an environmentalist to embrace nature. You can find a way to experience nature that brings meaning and wellbeing into your life.
Are you aware of the importance of nature on our happiness? Do you find happiness while being outside in nature? I'd love to hear from you in the comments below!