I would usually be writing up this blog in a library, at a desk or in the office. But today I have decided to sit in my backyard, although avoiding the rain as much as possible (thank you Perth storms) It’s only fitting to write a blog about our connections with nature among nature, or as much nature as I can possibly get with a Wi-Fi connection.
Which brings me to the thought of how much we are drifting further and further away from natural spaces. Not only is it reflected in our media- less literature and entertainment focusing on nature but instead of purely social concepts (for example books may skip the long-detailed description on the beautiful natural surroundings to cut to the juicy social storylines), but also in our physical bodies, our perception of the world and our increasing anxiety. The bad news is that it we are more than ever reliant on technology and surrounded by architecture that is keeping us cramped and stressed, but the great news is… there seems to be a very simple solution!
It isn’t new information that in the past 20 years our dependency on technology in everyday life has hit new levels. You don’t need a doctor to tell you that the pain in your neck is probably caused by the weight of your head hanging over your front while you crouch to view your tiny screen- just as my chiropractor informed me a few weeks ago. I was also told by my optometrist that my long-distance eyesight has deteriorated due to the excessive viewing of close screens and reading small print…go figure! If you also are experiencing similar ailments or have realised that you can’t go at least 3 days without your phone or laptop; whether that be the emails, texts or social apps that come with it, then a reconnect with a natural environment is probably needed. The same goes if you feel pent up, angry or stressed due to being confined in your four-wall office or living space every day.
Why is a good connection with nature so important?
Well, emerging research shows that knowing and feeling a connection with nature brings meaning and joy to our lives.
It’s definitely not a new concept as naturalist, author and early advocate of preservation in the U.S, John Muir once said:
“I only went out for a walk and finally concluded to stay out until sundown, for going out, I found, was really going in”
Coming from a man that lived from 1838-1914, I believe he would be quite shocked at the amount of people in our current society who haven’t learnt that concept yet!
But it’s not our fault… urbanisation replaces natural places and surroundings with the artificial. To be surrounded by the concrete, steel and smog on a daily basis, as well as lots of various screens of distraction creates an interruption of flow and peace that you would normally experience in a natural setting. We can also now recognise that the topic of nature has slowly started to disappear from the cultural conversation, as media now only seems to focus on the social and political ideas.
When was the last time you read a magazine or on-line article that describes nature with this much detail?
“Already desiring to explore inside and out
the divine forest, so dense and alive,
which tempered the new day before my eyes,
without delay I left the bank, proceeding slowly through the country
whose ground exuded fragrance everywhere.”
— Dante Alighieri, Purgatorio
I already feel calm just by reading that. Although we aren’t as exposed to this type of literature on the daily, we have a personal responsibility to get out there an experience these descriptions in person. To find a curiosity in nature with our own two eyes. It’s as simple as a change in scenery in the office, a short walk at a nearby park or taking a small trip to a natural landscape.
A meta-analysis of research analysing 10 UK studies involving 1252 participants found that natural environments improved self-esteem and mood; the presence of water generating even greater effects. Time for a swim at the beach perhaps?
If you’re like me and find it hard to find time to get out amongst nature, there is also research to suggest that adding in greenery to your home or office space improves mood and decreases feelings of pain; Hospitals are adding in more flowers and foliage into post-surgery rooms and are finding there are decreased amounts of post-surgery patients needing painkillers!
Aside from redecorating and taking trips to natural rural areas, I find the most effective way of getting my daily dose on nature is to take a walk-through greenery. Simple, yet effective. I used to be the hard-core plug-your-head-phones-in-and-listen-to-pump-up-tunes kind of girl. I couldn’t go for a walk without drowning out my own thoughts with loud music. I eventually moved to podcasts for some daily insights, but now I honestly feel the most calm and relaxed when going completely techno free. I find myself listening closely to the sounds of my steps, the birds in the trees and I actually notice the minuscule insects and gorgeous angles of the trees with the sun poking through them. It makes you feel a lot more one with yourself. Thanks John Muir!
Here are my tips for consciously connecting with nature:
At the end of the day, we are natural beings. We don’t belong in man-made environments 24/7. The anxieties of modern society have been heightened drastically as we lean towards closing ourselves off from the natural world to indulge in screen time. So, go out, venture into Mother nature and allow yourself to take a deep, fresh breath.
You owe yourself that much.
Love & Light,
Hannah is a HappinessCo writer, blogger and