Over the 100s of centuries that mankind has been on on the planet it has only been less than 1% of that time where the majority of us have been living apart from nature, from forests, grasslands, lakes and oceans. For urban dwellers, even the sky at night is obscured with light pollution and only the brightest of stars can be seen. Our ancestral brains have not fully evolved to thrive in urban environments the traffic, the noise, air, water and light pollution.
For many years I worked in Community Mental Health in Auckland New Zealand. From time to time we would take a group of about 10 patients (recovering from major depression and various psychoses) outside the city, to walk, into the bush, close to rivers, waterfalls. The sounds were of forest birds and falling water, the beech trees had a special smell. I recall that often, when we set off, patients would be anxious, agitated, hearing voices, but on the return trip I would see smiles, hear laughter and others quietly sleeping. Nature seemed to have a very restorative effect on these patients. An urban excursion, while mostly enjoyed, did not have nearly such a powerful effect.
Curious as to this effect I found this research by (Berman, Kross, Kaplan, 2012) where a significant additional positive effect was found for people walking in nature rather than urban environments. walking is good but walking close to nature is better. They also found that by adding a mindfulness component to the walk in nature the benefits could be even better.
Mindfulness while walking in nature ? What does this mean ?
The next time you take a walk in a natural environment try focusing on all your senses.
Notice the breeze on your skin
The feel of all your muscles as you walk
The sight of dappled light coming through the trees
The sun or moon on the water
The sounds, the smells.
If you manage to focus on the above (mindfulness) some effects on your mind and body will begin to occur, your blood pressure will begin to go lower, stress hormone secretion will be lower, anxiety will tend to be lower as your focus shifts to nature. Your ancestral brain feels at home again, you are beginning to feel more connected, calm, peaceful. Your ancestral brain has a break from the urban environment.
If you can make time in your week to spend time in nature your resilience, physical, mental, emotional and spiritual will be greatly enhanced !
Make a plan
Without a plan, the intention to spend more time mindfully in nature is just an intention !
see my article on making a plan
Connect with nature by .....
Walking in the park or on the beach
Siting around a camp fire, focusing on the flickering flames.
Even lying on your back and focusing on the clouds floating by.
There is a way of reconnecting with nature for everyone !