Frank Lloyd Wright’ (American architect, writer and educator) wrote, ‘Study nature, love nature, stay close to nature. It will never fail you.’ I love going for a walk by the river or in some other natural environment. The exercise is good for me and I relax as I soak up the peace and beauty of Nature. I enjoy seeing different species of birds and in winter, listening to the frogs croaking. I breathe deep and draw in the scent of gum leaves. I find myself energised by walking in a natural environment and as I unwind I sort through anything that has been bothering me. Sometimes I will just sit for a while, absorb the serenity (remember the movie ‘The Castle’?), look around and contemplate life.
Why do I get such an uplifting feeling when I am in touch with Nature? Why do I get a special buzz from walking in a natural environment and the experience is far more positive than walking among shops? (This is even though I love looking at clothing boutiques and just have to have a ‘fix’ of op shopping from time to time.) However, studies have shown even a 15 minute walk in a natural environment can increase positive feelings and up your enthusiasm, but a 15 minute walk indoors will not have the same result. It has been found tree lined streets not only look nice but also make people happier. A 17 year study of 10,000 people in Britain found the greener the neighbourhood where people lived the happier they would be.
Studies have found being connected with the natural environment improves our health, happiness and wellbeing. Researchers, Zelenski and Nisbet coined the phrase ‘nature relatedness’ to cover the concept of how humans connect emotionally to the natural world. People who have a higher level of nature relatedness will also interact better with other people, have a greater self acceptance and have a more positive attitude.
People who feel more connected to the natural environment are happier. The American biologist, researcher and naturalist, E.O. Wilson claims human beings have a genetically predetermined connection to the natural world. We are naturally drawn to Nature. When a person is enjoying Nature he/she will be living in the moment.
It has been found that spending time in a natural environment has positive effects including
• Increased relaxation
• Increased contentment
• Increased cognitive skills and academic ability
• Increased energy levels
• Decreased aggression
• Decreased anxiety
• Reduction in stress,
• Helps people recover from illness
Activities such as gardening, sitting outside looking at the garden, walking, hiking and camping bring us closer to Nature. The good news is activities such as painting a picture of a natural environment, meditating while listening to sounds of Nature, listening to music inspired by Nature, looking out of a window at a natural scene, imagining yourself in a natural environment and looking at photos of natural environments all give similar benefits. I would like to end by quoting the poet e.e. cummings who said, ‘ I thank you God for this most amazing day, for the leaping greenly spirits of trees, and for the blue dream of sky and for everything which is natural, which is infinite, which is yes.’