The Benefits of Nature
“The nitrogen in our DNA, the calcium in our teeth, the iron in our blood, the carbon in our apple pies were made in the interiors of collapsing stars. We are made of starstuff.” ― Carl Sagan, Cosmos
Have you ever laid down under the blanket of a night sky lit up with stars? Billions of dancing lights taunting us with their mind bending wonder in a universe that goes on... forever. It's enough to induce both awe and an existential crisis.
And what about mountain ranges, or woodland? Ocean views or lake side? Mother Nature calms us with her charming ways, even if it does feel rather overwhelming at times. A feeling I know all too well, one memory in particular standing in the shadow of Glencoe on an Autumn trip - all at once humbled, grateful and still with tears rolling down my cheeks.
So while our love for and feeling good in the great outdoors can be noted right away - rediscovering peace, appreciation and fresh air - time outside through to the rocketing popularity of wild life and nature programmes, living close to or simply regularly viewing photos of nature can also serve us in more subtle ways.
When it comes to our emotions, nature has been shown to reduce anger, fear, and stress through to boosting our overall sense of wellbeing. A walk, for example, supports our mental processes for decision making, as well as gaining perspective.
Medicinally, nature offers a heap of goodness for the heart, as well as lowering blood pressure, reducing muscle tension, boosting the immune system, improving sleep and even reducing the production of stress hormones. Over longer periods it's also found to reduce the risk of type II diabetes, premature death, cardiovascular disease, preterm birth, and stress. Whew.
For mental health, nature has her own dedicated field of therapy, Ecotherapy, covering a range of practices designed to promote mental and physical wellbeing outdoors. From depression or anxiety, through to boosting self esteem and communication skills, Ecotherapies boost the production of feel good brain chemicals - dopamine, oxytocin, serotonin, and endorphins - supporting recovering and long term recovery and wellbeing management,
In addition to all of the above, nature provides us with something we can connect to, somewhere quiet, which is both peaceful and much greater than ourselves. Something which we all, at some stage, no doubt need.
Nature provides us with the perfect space to return to ourselves, offering us adventure and fun, beauty and challenge, mental and emotional stimulation and reflection and nurture. Holistic, complete and unwavering in her mission to thrive; Mother Nature is true to her nature as a mother.
As we head into 2020, consider making time in nature a priority, with National Trust memberships available from just £6 a month, free walking groups across the UK or something more active like Breeze, HSBC's Womens-Only bike programme.
The benefits of nature likely extend far beyond our current understanding, but what I believe connects us most deeply, in the ways we feel it most, is in the way we are gently returned to ourselves as human beings, part of nature, belonging to the natural world in a way many too often forget; we are nature and these moments bring us home.