Written By : Marta Gintowt
In this modern world in which where we live, many of us city-dwellers can say we are deprived of the healing powers of the outdoors. Office jobs run 9 to 5, and from 5 until bedtime, we find ourselves binging Netflix, staring at our phones, or working overtime. Screen time has taken the place of green time, and the norm seems to be as though we are rushing through life as quickly as possible.
Nature, on the other hand, does not work like that.
Humans are natural—we come from nature and we belong in nature, no matter how much we evolve. Nature doesn’t ask us for a deadline, it doesn’t command for you to rush. There are no outlets in tree trunks, there are no fiber optics in the soil. As a city-dweller myself, the things that make me feel the most at peace are the simple things that I once took for granted; small, singing birds, the sweet smell of spring, and tall, full trees—especially the way they sound moving in the breeze.
The moment when I truly understood how tremendous of a toll the absence of nature played in my life was when I was visiting a relative in the countryside. My normal state was to hurry, whether that’s through the maze of streets in my neighborhood on my way to work, pacing around the grocery store, or just while at work, seated and completing my tasks. On this particular day, instead of hearing car horns and noisy street banter, I felt the gentle spring wind and heard only the sound of birds overhead. Right then I realized that the race of my everyday life and pace was only against myself, and I was never going to win, because there was no prize. My muscles relaxed, the ever-present tension in my shoulders dissipated, and my anxiety erased itself. It’s a feeling that is not registered until truly experienced, and since then, I have vowed to make spending more time in nature a priority.
Moments when you slow down and let your mind and physical being disconnect are more important than any cyber connection or screen time. Taking a break to slow down and spend time outdoors, whether it’s just for an afternoon or completely going off the grid, is imperative for both mind, body, and soul.
‘I just need some fresh air’ is a phrase that we have all used, reflecting the simplicity of our needs, but also how profoundly being around nature benefits us. For decades, research has been conducted by countless organizations and medical professionals analyzing the benefits of time spent in nature and the healing powers of the outdoors. From instant mental health advantages to long-term physical gains, the science says it all.
Today relies heavily on office work, sitting in chairs, scanning over a screen. A tranquil outside in a natural setting can decrease high blood pressure (1), something that we all might experience from day to day. The sight, smell, and scenery of a dense forest or an urban green space stimulates ideas, creativity, and inspiration (1). Those who spend more time outdoors are said to have better moods, lower stress and anxiety levels, and better short-term memory spans (2)(3).
Physically, the evidence is equally as strong. Pollutants plague not only our city but also suburbs, creating all kind of stressors working against our vital organs. Studies show that treatment for chronic diseases, such as cancer and heart disease, can benefit from exposure to nature due to a greater sense of wellbeing and happiness(4). A lifestyle that involves more time spent within nature can not only help prevent future illness, it can also assist with the healing process. The Japanese phenomenon known as ‘forest bathing’ has become common practice for some, and has been proven to reduce cortisol levels and strengthen the immune system (5).
For those who love to explore, spending time in the wild is a no-brainer, however, city-dwellers might find it more difficult to find the motivation to make their way to the nearest green-space. From one urbanite to another: it is possible and it is worth it. I will never forget that spring day, drinking a tea and feeling the fresh, clean breeze on my face as I took a sigh of relief. I experienced immediate gratification from healing, since then, whenever I am in a forest, along the beach, or in the country, I am never disappointed.
There is no better feeling than hearing nothing and seeing everything. Hearing none of the noise pollution, engines, neighbors, parties, and seeing everything—trees, birds, flowers, clouds, that you actually see and absorb, wanting to save the feeling of that moment forever. Nature, in the end, is a friend you can rely on, that will listen to your needs, and help you heal your wounds. It can help you re-find yourself, bringing you back where you came from and the Earth in which you belong.
Photo credits : unsplash.com
- Mental health benefits: https://www.natureandforesttherapy.org/about/science
- Forest Bathing- http://www.shinrin-yoku.org/shinrin-yoku.html