Lockdown has shown that life, in whatever guise, finds a way to be overwhelming. We have become so reliant on quick fixes, access to technology, staying indoors that we have forgotten about one of our most important roots, and that’s nature. However, our ancestral routes lie in nature. It is only right that nature itself could be the real antidote that many of us need in our life.
The Indoor Generation
Historically, we humans have become very adept to living and remaining indoors. Although we have progressed a lot in terms of technological advancements, we have also regressed. If we were to review our human history, from the discovery of fire to the Industrial Revolution through to modern-day, detachment from nature followed too. We only have to look at the childhood of the different generations to see that every generation has become increasingly indoor orientated.
In a recent study, the average person claims to spend 93% of their time either in enclosed spaces, whether that’s a car, home or office. This figure highlights that we only spend around 7% of our time outdoors. Moreover, when comparing our lifestyle to our not-so-distant ancestors, it seems that we are the Neanderthals. In other words, our technologically driven society has isolated us from each other and nature. How we communicate with one and other has advanced, but it has also created a divide and barrier. No wonder it can be so hard to articulate the need to act now for the climate crisis, or sustainability. It was only after Sir David Attenborough returned to our television screens that the true cost of plastic pollution was visible.
It’s no wonder then, that after slowly becoming an indoor generation, the wilderness revolution began. That primal urge to return outside is strong. Even though mindfulness is becoming a widely accepted coping mechanism, can one truly be mindful through an app? One could argue that social media, our phones and technology, in general, is why our separation from nature has gone somewhat unnoticed.
We are designed to be connected with nature. We are rooted in nature. In a way, many of us need to begin to take a break from the “indoor” lifestyle and rediscover the true beauty of natural, holistic experiences.
Realistically, every person can reap the benefits of being mindful within nature. If we weren’t sure of it before, now more than ever, we know that humans don’t belong stuck inside for most of the day. Moreover, there has been a lot of research on how nature positively impacts our overall wellbeing. For instance, Mind explains that there are many psychological and physical benefits from being outdoors and close to nature. In other words, nature can be powerful for the inner, and outer, self. Through mindful acts, like forest bathing, one can become happier, healthier and even boost your creativity.
Furthermore, one particular study that was conducted by a Japanese scientist focuses solely on the benefits of Shinrin-Yoku, otherwise known as forest bathing. In summary, this experiment looked at the psychological effects of being immersed in nature vs spending time in a busy city. Once the study had ended, nearly all of the participants and the scientists found that they had “lower concentrations of cortisol, lower pulse rate and lower blood pressure.” Essentially, this study demonstrated that people could reduce their stress levels, just by spending half of their day immersed in a forest setting.
Discover the Natural Antidote
Imagine that you are walking in a forest, barefoot and wholly immersed in the natural surroundings. Now, think about the leaves beneath your feet, every branch, every shiver in the wind – your senses are heightened. That image, that happy feeling in your head is entirely possible. Are there many better feelings in the world than immersing yourself in the natural world?
Although it might seem that you have disconnected from society, you will gain a completely different sense of belonging. Nature itself, notably a forest setting, provides an escape. It’s an indescribable and inexplicable sense of tranquillity.
The hardest step is the ability to completely switch off in the first place. If you’re having a particularly hard day, try to go outside, even just to lay in your garden. Although you might not live near a forest, just being around flora and fauna, away from the urban jungle can work wonders for your mental health. We need outdoors in normal times; we need it now, more than ever.
The Healing Power of Nature was first published in notes from fen and field.