Nature provides a welcome respite from the chaos of the modern world. Seeking out the solace found in the natural world can offer a path out of feeling hopeless.
When life feels bleak, there are proven benefits to turning to nature to reframe our lives. Nature is resilient; in most cases, she can bounce back from harm when left to her own devices to heal. We can do the same, and in turn be reminded of what really matters.
Here are six reasons why turning to nature can be beneficial:
- Spending time in nature helps us forget about what ails us, even if only temporarily. Time in nature offers a break from the thoughts that plague us. A simple walk through the woods allows us to shut off the constant chatter of the mind and remove ourselves from the physical environment that keeps us in those holding patterns of always doing and thinking without being mindful. Nature helps us reframe our outlook, which can then help us focus on what is truly important.
- Nature teaches us about resilience. Nature responds to what happens, but it doesn’t react; that is, nature doesn’t throw a tantrum and think why did this happen to me? For example, when a bird’s nest is blown down in a storm, the birds build a new nest and continue reproducing and caring for their young. Likewise, by learning to cultivate resilience to what life throws in our path, we spend less time agonizing and suffering. We develop this inner resilience by stopping ourselves from habitual, reactive states of mind and accepting what is, emulating nature. In turn, this allows us to break destructive habits that keep us stuck and distance us from what really matters, which is peace of mind, kindness, and forgiveness.
- Spending time in nature reduces stress. A recent study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that participants who walked for 90 minutes in nature reported fewer ruminations and recorded lower neural activity than those who walked for the same length of time in an urban setting. Ruminating is when we have repetitive thoughts focused on negative aspects of ourselves, and it is a known risk factor for mental illness. Spending time in nature turns our minds away from negative thoughts and promotes clearer thinking. As a result, we’re better able to reframe those niggling things we thought were important but which really don’t matter.
- Nature makes us happy. At the very least, nature eases our mind and makes us feel more content. A social media study published in March 2020 points to the correlation between nature and what we associate as fun. The National University of Singapore studied 31,500 social media posts from 185 countries and found that those with hashtags including #fun and #vacations were much more likely to include elements of nature. Biophilia, the human love for nature and seeking connection with it, is innate. When we act on our biophilia, we are more likely to be happy.
- Nature amazes us and expands our horizons. Simply observing the infinite diversity of nature and what is possible can boost a mood. For instance, have you ever witnessed the cooperativeness of an insect colony? Watching the insects work together toward a common goal can fill us with wonder, curiosity, and awe. If insects aren’t your thing, watch birds in flight or squirrels gathering food, or notice the variety in color and shape of flowers. Nature helps us develop an enhanced appreciation for what is possible.
- Nature puts everything into perspective. Being in nature helps us slow down, explore, and experience awe. It fills us with peace, removes negativity, and promotes feelings of gratitude. We can watch other life forms carry on despite the world’s troubles, which puts our own lives into perspective. Life goes on; nature continues doing her thing, and our appreciation of that can make it all worth living.