For many reasons I am excited to share this blog post with you, but I thought it was only apt considering that it is Earth Week.
Today I wanted to delve deeper in the connection we as humans have with nature and the healing effects of soaking up the great outdoors. I also wanted to explore the impact embracing Mother Nature has on our family life as well as discussing other inspirational and educational views on the topic.
Firstly, it is so undeniably true that being outdoors, irregardless of the weather transforms your mood. I know for a fact that if I was to stay inside all day long with the shutters closed and the television on, I would start to feel fatigued, uninspired and mentally lethargic. Whereas, even something as simple as opening a window and letting in the fresh air and being able to hear the chorus of a bird’s song is uplifting. I would admit that sunnier, spring-time weather does help you feel as though you have an added spring in your step. However, I contrastingly would also argue that getting outside, even if it is raining or windy does wonders for you mentally, physically and spiritually. Irregardless of the weather, the outdoors really does have the capability to metaphorically blow the cobwebs away. I mean, Yale University, where one of my favourite fictional characters (Rory Gilmore) attended, has even concluded its findings on impact of spending time in nature with the following list of health benefits:
- Lower blood pressure
- Reduce stress hormone levels
- Lower nervous system arousal
- Enhance immune system function
- Increase self-esteem
- Reduce anxiety
- Improve mood
Translated as ‘forest bathing’, this takes embracing Mother Nature to a whole new level as this process of being in nature requires you to be calm and pay attention to your natural surroundings. On a side note, it’s interesting how the notion of paying attention has cropped up again as being a key practice in cultivating a healthy mind, body and spirit. I recently shared my musings on paying attention in my previous blog post: Slow Motherhood: Paying Attention. To bathe in nature is a meditative practise, enabling yourself to switch off from the chaos of society and the endless to do lists in your head. Plus, the rewards do not only benefit adults but children as well! Forest bathing, ever since it officially was coined in 1980s Japan, is rapidly gaining momentum and stature on a global scale, increasingly being recognised by health scholars in journals and research, pinpointing major health advancements to those who regularly practise Shinrin-Yoku. It was a government response to a public health crisis in Japan, therefore sparking a nationwide focus on encouraging the Japanese population to explore nature through all of the five senses. If you fancy more reading on this topic, I have attached a great link to the Effect of Forest Bathing Trips on Human Immune Function.
My own personal experience of forest bathing has been extremely interesting, when I truly listen, watch and absorb the nature around me and get into a meditative headspace, I feel lighter and rejuvenated. There is a song (if that’s the correct term?!) on Spotify by Ram Dass and East Forest called Nature. The lyrics of this ‘song’ or rather, guided meditation, celebrate nature, highlighting poignant points:
Nature embraces us
And we embrace nature
Nature is a manifestation of God
And that manifestation is love all the way.
I would highly recommend giving that song a listen to, it always fills me with warmness and brings such clarity to the forefront of my spirit. I do believe that nature is, like Ram Dass states, a manifestation of God. The integrity of nature is emphasised in The Holy Bible in The Book of Job 12:7-10:
“But ask the animals, and they will teach you;
the birds of the air, and they will tell you;
ask the plants of the earth, and they will teach you;
and the first of the sea will declare to you.
Who among all these does not know
that the hand of the Lord has done this?
In His hand is the life of every living thing
and the breath of every human being.”
A Childhood in Nature
I find it so incredibly interesting to observe not only the difference I feel from interacting with nature, but also the effects nature has on Olivia. Over the course of the past four and a half years I have grown to learn that being outside is medicine for a child. The imaginative play that we have as a family, the curiosity she displays in noticing an unusual pattern on a leaf, the texture of a piece of bark or marvelling at an insect: nature truly is a playground. It’s therefore wonderful how, like with the scholarly research on the health benefits of Shinrin-Yoku, the vast bank of research on childhood and nature is expanding at an ever-increasing rate. Intertwined with this, it is important to celebrate the fact that schools are integrating outdoor learning into the English Curriculum. I, myself, have noticed the increased attention and funding that is placed upon Forest School programmes, ensuring that children are having a holistic educational experience. And, yes, although the Curriculum still has a long way to go in terms of taking its focus and emphasis off the Core Subjects (English, Maths and Science), it is good to see that there is a shift taking place.
I have been listening to the 1000 Hours Outdoors podcast for a long while now and have so much more to say on the topic, including the immense impact of nature journalling on both adults and children alike. I do believe that this focus on Mother Nature weaves in beautifully with the slow living movement of seasonally living and embracing the constant changes taking place outside our homes. I will therefore share more of my thoughts of this topic and intend to share mine and Olivia’s experience of nature journalling with you in a coming blog post.
Please do leave any thoughts you have on embracing Mother Nature and what impact you believe it has on you. Plus, it’s always wonderful to read other people’s findings and therefore do be a part of the discussion in the comments below.