There are many ways to connect with ourselves and others, but nature is certainly one of the best ways.
"Nature is fuel for the soul," says Richard Ryan, lead author and a professor of psychology at the University of Rochester. "Often when we feel depleted we reach for a cup of coffee, but research suggests a better way to get energized is to connect with nature," he says.
"Research has shown that people with a greater sense of vitality don't just have more energy for things they want to do, they are also more resilient to physical illnesses. One of the pathways to health may be to spend more time in natural settings," says Ryan.
It's an essential component for good health, according to University of Illinois environment and behavior researcher Frances "Ming" Kuo.
"Through the decades, parks advocates, landscape architects, and popular writers have consistently claimed that nature had healing powers," Kuo said. "But until recently, their claims haven't undergone rigorous scientific assessment."
Energy from nature -- the earth, sun, sky, landscape, colour, and time affect people, animals, and possible events. This promotes harmony and helps overcome, or at times prevent, natural and manmade disasters.
Freedom From Societal Influence
If you found yourself suddenly transported into the woods with nothing surrounding you but nature, you would likely have no idea what year, or even century, it was. You might not even know what continent you're on! Since teleporting is unlikely to happen any time soon, try taking note of this phenomenon next time you go for a hike or stroll outdoors. There are no trends, influences, or expectations, and you are free to ponder life in its purest form. It can be very spiritual to spend some time removed from anything man-made. Learn how to tap into what you've always had...the power of bonding.
Hundreds of species of plants and animals can live amongst each other in one small area. This is the way the eco-system is meant to work -- each fragment contributes to a greater balance as they coexist. Humans could certainly stand to take note.
"In greener settings, we find that people are more generous and more sociable. We find stronger neighborhood social ties and greater sense of community, more mutual trust and willingness to help others.
"In less green environments, we find higher rates of aggression, violence, violent crime, and property crime -- even after controlling for income and other differences," she said. "We also find more evidence of loneliness and more individuals reporting inadequate social support."
The equation seems too simple to be true.
- Access to nature and green environments yields better cognitive functioning, more self-discipline and impulse control, and greater mental health overall.
- Less access to nature is linked to exacerbated attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder symptoms, higher rates of anxiety disorders, and higher rates of clinical depression.
Makes People Feel Alive
Being outside in nature makes people feel more alive, finds a series of studies published the Journal of Environmental Psychology. And that sense of increased vitality exists above and beyond the energizing effects of physical activity and social interaction that are often associated with our forays into the natural world, the studies show.
Nature is a Reminder
Step outside, and you'll see that the life cycle is all around you. Plants and animals live and die to make room for the next generation. Though humans are a completely different life form, we are no exception to that rule. When we spend time in nature, we are reminded that life is fleeting -- and sometimes we need that perspective in order to remember what truly matters. (And to remind us how small we are in the grand scheme of things.) It might be scary to realize that nothing is permanent, but perhaps that's what makes life so precious.
Josh Richardson is blogger, healer, and a constant pursuer of the natural state of human consciousness.