Have you ever stood by the side of the highway and looked out over a magnificent vista? How does that contact with nature make you feel? Does it bring you a sense of peace? How about a change in perspective?
Being outside in contact with nature has a profound effect on our minds.
In doing research for this post I found a fascinating article titled “PSYCHOLOGICAL BENEFITS OF NATURE EXPERIENCES: RESEARCH AND THEORY” by John Davis, Ph.D. The gist of the article is that there is much solid research that confirms what is obvious to many: contact with nature leads to increased mental health and positive psychological development.
Contact with Nature: Positive Benefits
This article cites many positive psychological benefits of being in contact with nature, including:
- Relaxation and stress reduction
- Decreased mental fatigue, restored mental clarity, and increased sense of well-being.
- Increased recovery from surgery and better health
- Improved work performance in job settings
- Benefits for children’s attention, including reduction of symptoms of ADHD.
Even better, you don’t have to be climbing a mountain or paddling a kayak. Beneficial contact with nature can range from an extended wilderness excursion, to spending time in a park or even your backyard, gardening, and even watching nature scenes on TV! Even looking at pictures of nature scenes in a book or magazine can have a beneficial effect.
I’ts only been within the past 100 years or so that most of us in the industrialized nations spend most of our time indoors. However, for most of our history as humans, we were outside: hunting, farming, walking, or just watching nature do it’s thing.
This allowed us to be present to the circle of life, the constant repeating cycle of the seasons, the phases of the moon, the changing constellations, the blooming and dormancy of trees and the changes in the behavior of animals.
As a modern society, we have lost sight of the fact that we are of the earth, and that the rhythm of nature is reflected in our own bodies. Allan Watts said “The Earth peoples just like an apple tree apples. When you look out of your eyes, at nature happening out there, you’re looking at you!”
In the article mentioned, John Davis refers to this as the “transpersonal” benefits of nature. Examples of transpersonal benefits from contact with nature include:
- Nature is a trigger for peak experiences. Jesus, Moses, Buddha, and Mohammed had mystical experiences in wilderness settings.
- Nature can trigger spiritual awakening
- Nature is an antidote to a world that is overly rationalized
- Nature can promote a shift from what is invented (the ego, built structures) to what is essential (that which existed prior to or before human action)
My own personal opinion is that much of our discontent and angst in western culture is that we have lost our essential connection with the natural world.
When clients come to me who are challenged by negative emotions such as anxiety, depression, one of the first suggestion I will make to them is to get out! Get outside, walk around, and establish that connection with “essential nature”. My good friend and mentor June Davidson suggests walking every day barefoot on the earth. Chi gong philosophy suggests that trees have tremendous beneficial energy just by being near them.
I’ll make the same suggestion to you: take a few minutes every day to get outside, or at the very least, seek contact with nature through a window or even in a photo. Every day, see if you can take a break from the same house, same office, same freeway and just for while, get out!
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Your companion on the journey to transformation,