The combination of COVID, winter fast approaching and technology has created a dangerous trifecta: we never have to or feel the need to leave our house again. We can shut it all down, quarantining, binging on Netflix and YouTube videos. We can work from home, zooming our colleagues and clients. Every restaurant delivers and groceries can be shopped online. Gym memberships have been replaced with Pelotons and treadmills in our garages. Amazon sells everything under the sun. We have created such an insular world that we never have to step foot outside of our home. We congratulate ourselves as we brilliant humans have once again prevailed over adversity and the elements, overcoming all obstacles in our path. Mission accomplished. But did we really win and, if so, at what price? Is this a healthy existence? The answer from a mountain of scientific research is a resounding no!
There is an innate need within us to connect with nature. Instinctively, we all feel it and know this. If you’ve been cooped up at home all day and then go for a walk or catch a sunset at the beach, you immediately feel your stress reduce and mood improve. Our senses are stimulated: the fresh air rejuvenates us as we breathe it in; the trees and flowers gently flowing in the breeze; the calming effect of the waves on the ocean; the birds chirping cheer us. We are genetically predisposed for this nature experience and when we deprive ourselves of this, we can easily become tense, imbalanced and depressed.
The second key emotional benefit of feeling attuned to nature involves enjoying stronger bonds with others. A better and more relaxed mood translates into a more compassionate attitude that can improve the quality of our social bonds. We are less tense and feel more altruistic as it is a gentle reminder we all connected here in this universe, to each other and with nature. A walk with a friend in nature feeds the soul far more than the lonely treadmill surrounded by 4 walls in your living room.
But the key when in nature is to BE in nature. Be mindfully aware, let your sensory perceptions thrive. Put your phone down and take in your surroundings. Purposefully enjoy your environment, with intention. Be in the moment. Take a few deep breaths: breathe in the inner peace, breathe out the dis-ease (a mantra that rhymes). Disconnect from your problems and let the energy flow within you. Feel the rhythm of nature and the psychologically powerful effect it has on our mental health. Such a stark contrast to the artificial environment we’ve created in our homes. We were meant to be in nature so elevate your mood and enjoy the present moment.
The beautiful thing is nature is readily available to us. Just head outdoors! Unless you live in a dense city surrounded by concrete and buildings, find your place of serenity and make time for nature. There are local parks, lakes, hiking trails, even a nice tree-lined residential street for a leisurely stroll will alter your mood for the better. Winter is around the corner and COVID is surging again, but be sure to carve out time to be in nature. Nature nurtures us: it calms our minds and feeds our souls.