Before reading any further, if you want to laugh and feel good about life for a few minutes, please click on this great video produced by nature-rx.org.
The video tells us what scientists have recently started to document, and what we’ve known intuitively all along: Our relationship with nature is fundamental to our well-being. Nature heals and restores us, mentally, physically and spiritually. Without adequate “vitamin N,” we are somehow lost, disconnected from life and from ourselves, and this impacts us on every level, including having negative effects on our physical and emotional health.
In fact, some doctors are beginning to prescribe “nature” to their patients, and some researchers are trying to determine what exact “dose” of time spent in nature would be optimal!
So as we look this month at re-creating ourselves through rest and recreation, it is fitting to consider unplugging ourselves from electronics and taking the time to experience the great outdoors.
How can we deepen our connection with nature? And if we do, what benefits can we hope to attain?
In 2015, the University of Derby in England collaborated with The Wildlife Trusts to create an online campaign called “30 Days Wild” inviting participants to engage in “doing something wild” every day for a month. Activities were suggested—101 Random Acts of Wildness—although participants were encouraged to be creative and design their own. More than 18,500 people wound up taking the challenge and communicating their discoveries through words and pictures on social media.
A before and after study was done, and participants reported scientifically significant improvements in all parameters studied: health, happiness, connection to nature and active nature behaviors (like feeding birds, exploring a new wilderness area). The number of people reporting “excellent” health increased by 30%.
Researchers hypothesized that connection with nature causes happiness, which in turn improves health.
They noted that prior research had correlated increased interaction with nature with decreases in high blood pressure, respiratory illness and heart disease; recovery from mental fatigue; and improved mood, vitality, life satisfaction and positive effect on others.
Assignment: Like any relationship, our relationship with nature requires time and attention. Make a commitment to cultivating your relationship with nature by devoting time and attention to it on a regular basis. You can get ideas from the 101 Random Acts of Wildness on the 30 Days Wild Campaign website.
It can be as simple as stopping for a few minutes on your walk to the bus in the morning to notice a garden or a tree along your way; sitting on a bench on your lunch hour and feeling the sun on your face, savoring a passing breeze, observing the changing patterns of clouds in the sky; caring for a plant, or watching a sunrise or sunset. The above study found it deepens your experience and appreciation to write or talk about what you felt as you did these things.
Feel free to write to us if you’d like. We’d love to hear about your experiences.
- Barton J. What is the best dose of nature and green exercise for improving mental health? A multi-study analysis. Environmental Science & Technology. 2010;44(10):3947-3955.
- Richardson M. Thirty days wild: development and evaluation of a large-scale nature engagement campaign to improve well-being. PLOSOne. February 2016. Accessed July 1, 2017.
- Coles J. How nature is good for our health and happiness. bbc.com. April 20, 2016. Accessed July 1, 2017.