I love spending time in nature. It feeds my soul. It replenishes me in ways that nothing else can. From walking scenic hiking trails, to actively seeking out green spaces in big cities and now being privileged to live immersed in nature, I have intentionally tuned into nature’s power to try and understand its profound impact.
Most of us know unconsciously that spending time in nature has therapeutic effects. However, radically our lives have shifted away from nature with the strong lure of big city lights and the increase in urbanisation. We are spending more time indoors too where the information onslaught is rapid and relentless. And the fact that we have to continually process all of this information takes its toll on our attention, our nervous system and our wellbeing.
Past poets, scientists and philosophers have all known the power of nature as a creativity booster and an antidote to stress but it was hard to prove. Now with the advancement in technology, we are able to measure brain activation and how our system responds when we immerse ourselves in nature.
And there is evidence for what we have known intuitively all along: nature improves our physical, mental, and spiritual wellbeing.
Here are my top 10 observations of nature’s positive effects.
- Grounding in the present
I can’t help but focus on the here and now when submerged in nature. Whether I am walking a trail that needs my attention to steady my gait or sitting next to a pond in a park with a sandwich
listening to the melodious bird calls, I am fully present. Each moment reveals something new. There is no room for autopilot now as the dynamic pulse of nature is sensed throughout my being. I am living this moment without effort or expectation.
- Gaining perspective
Nature gives me perspective. I stop fixating and obsessing. I see the bigger picture. Suddenly the problem that seemed insurmountable a moment ago isn’t the monster I had made it out to be.
I know what is most important and am able to view my life through a more objective lens. I realise that I am a tiny spec in the ocean of life and there is a bigger force at play. I feel compelled to take a deep belly breath and surrender.
- From wallowing to solving
In nature I can shrug off the victim mantle and move into solution mode. I can be more creative in solving what’s most important, coming up with new ideas and accessing a calm centeredness within that has clarity of thought and acceptance of mood.
- Engaging my senses
I love to play with my senses when in nature: to focus on the damp smell of a mossed forest floor; a harmonious bird call and the warm, tingling sensation of sunshine on my back. What about the visual bliss of a pink sunrise over the ocean or noticing the way the thick mist mysteriously rises from a river on a crisp winter morning. Nature offers us so much opportunity to engage our senses and make us feel alive.
- Tuning in
Nature invites me to look within, to quieten my internal chatter and tune into my true essence, offering a non-judgemental space for stillness and reflection.
- Realising there is perfection in imperfection
Nature has an innate knowing of its purpose, always living out its truth while it adapts to survive and thrive – a great philosophy on life in my opinion. Do you ever chastise a tree for losing its leaves in winter or producing white flowers instead of pink? In our material world where the bar is set at unattainable levels and we come down so hard on ourselves, nature teaches us that there is perfection in imperfection. In this kinder space we are able to exercise compassion for others and for ourselves, accepting our scars, our vulnerabilities as well as our strengths.
- Putting a smile on my dial
Nature certainly has its quirks, especially the funny and unexpected actions of its inhabitants – its wildlife. I find myself smiling at a groundscraper thrush walking “like an Egyptian”, or laughing out
loud at a cheeky vervet monkey playing in the trees. I am reminded of how important it is to laugh – and at ourselves too!
- Slowing down
Stepping outside slows things down. It rests the attention part of my brain. I spontaneously take a deep belly breath, activating my parasympathetic nervous system. I begin to relax. Stress levels are reduced. I start to feel connected and happy.
- Experience the new
Nature is dynamic. It is constantly evolving. What I am experiencing right now changes in an instant. Nature ignites a curiosity in me. It invites me to be more open, to keep questioning, to choose to be a learning being, in constant evolution.
- Marvel at the miracle of nature
When in nature I sense that I am in the presence of something vast, an energy much bigger than me, something that transcends my limited understanding of the world. I marvel at the miracle of
creation. I am in a state of awe and wonder. I feel the powerful effect on my soul.
I would love to hear your experience of the outdoors and the impact that nature has on you.