A huge thank you to Hope Cafe reader and professional photographer Graham Storms from Lindsay, Ontario for contributing the spectacular photo above. You’ll find more of Graham’s work at http://500px.com/graystorms
Why We All Need Nature, the Mother of all Therapies
by Donna Sales, R. Psych.
“There is new life in the soil for every man. There is healing in the trees for tired minds and for our overburdened spirits, there is strength in the hills, if only we will lift up our eyes. Remember that nature is your great restorer.” Calvin Coolidge, 1924 speech
Humans have always had an intimate relationship with the earth. Until the last fifty years or so. Our ancestors, they hunted, gathered, farmed and fished. They walked, ran, climbed, rode, worked, played, and gathered outdoors. Nature was revered as the source of all life with its offerings, seasons, cycles, and, at times, fierce unpredictability. Human civilization understood that we are intricately bonded to the earth. Our grandparents, and all grandparents who lived before them, they had a front row seat when it came to observing, sensing, and understanding the natural order of things.
“Our children”, writes Richard Louv in his book Last Child in the Woods: Saving our Children From Nature Deficit Disorder, “are the first generation to be raised without meaningful connection to the natural world”. What are the implications of this radical shift from coexisting with the natural world to being so disengaged from it?
As human civilization becomes increasingly more disconnected from Mother Earth we are, essentially, disconnecting from our true nature and what we need to be whole and healthy beings physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. Anxiety and depression rates globally are staggering, perhaps most alarmingly in our children. Despite the explosion in popularity of technological devices and social media channels, a pervasive loneliness infiltrates our society. Chronic stress has reached epidemic levels, so entrenched in people’s lives it becomes the ‘new normal’ and they can no longer remember what it’s like to feel truly relaxed.
How can we build a solid foundation to navigate through life amidst the ‘clutter and clatter’ of the modern world? How do we develop meaningful connections with ourselves and others, clear our minds, calm our fears, open our imaginations, and restore our souls? We are all human animals with the same simple basic needs, none of which involve cell phones, shopping centres, Facebook, or keeping up with the Kardashians.
Feeling depleted and need to restore? Head for the mountains. Overcome with stress and need to decompress? How about a trip to the beach? Stressed, confused, lonely, or sad? Your choices are unlimited. Make friends with a tree (visit at least once each season). Lie in the grass on a warm summer night, discovering all the stars you possibly can. Make snow angels. Put your hands in the dirt and plant something. Pet a dog, cat, or horse. Visit a farm. Better yet, help out on a farm. Go camping. Join a community garden. Or hiking group. Search for a four-leafed clover; don’t give up until you find one.
There will always be stress, challenging times, and problems to overcome in life. Connecting with the natural world in a meaningful way may not make our problems go away but it can:
– Take the steam out of them. “Why did I let that bother me so much?”
– Expand our perspective (see the bigger picture). “Never looked at it that way before.”
– Foster clarity. “Okay, what’s really going on here?”
– Make us more grounded to consider solutions. “How do I really want to approach this?”
– Calm us down. “Now I can face this without anxiety running the show.”
– Replenish our reserves so we feel stronger/more resilient. In the words of naturalist John Muir, “Everybody needs beauty…places to play in and pray in where nature may heal and cheer and give strength to the body and soul alike.”
Integrating doses of nature into our lives is easy to do and doesn’t cost a thing. In the natural world there is no room for judgment or comparison. No pressure or competition. We can be our natural selves; remove the masks, let down our guard, be playful and free.
Yours, as always, in hope,
For further reading on eco-therapy, this is the link for an excellent article, The Power of Nature, by Dawn Green recently published in Pique Newsmagazine out of Whistler, B.C. http://www.piquenewsmagazine.com/whistler/the-power-of-nature/Content?oid=2446366&showFullText=true
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Donna Sales is a psychologist and writer living in Calgary, Canada. She is the founder of Hope Café.
Read previous posts by Donna on Kindness, The Mind-Body-Spirit Connection, Assertiveness, For the Love of Food, Hope in the Face of Illness, Spring Cleaning Your Life, Gratitude, Intuition,Simplicity, and Hope at The Inspiration Station