Nature has near-magical brain healing powers.
Your productivity, mental health and hormone levels can be improved by spending time outdoors and reconnecting with nature. Simply put, mother nature is a great therapist. So when your mind feels cluttered, pay her a visit.
She'll welcome you with open arms.
Ecotherapy, grounding and mindful hiking have won major popularity points this last year.
Hippie scams, you say?
For someone with an open mind there is a lot of proof available. The best proof of all is your own experience. But let’s get into the serious science stuff first.
Studies have found that:
- 15 minutes of walking in the forest can decrease the level of cortisol, or stress hormone by 15% compared to barely any decrease when walking in the city.
- Standing barefoot in the grass improves your sleep and the natural healing processes of your body. It’s also a playful hack to recharge your metaphorical empty batteries.
- The rhythmic waves of the sea can wash away your worst worries, anger or sadness. People who live close to the sea report higher happiness and health, irrespective of other factors.
You are a part of nature.
If you remember that you are in essence a natural creature, the positive effects of nature on our minds make a lot of sense.
Nature is our evolutionary home. To our inner cave people, the trees are our shelter. Rivers and lakes are our valuable sources of water. The sun keeps us warm.
But our rational minds tend to forget. In the age of comfort and convenience, we have accepted brick walls as cages for our bodies and an overdose of digital information as nourishment for our minds.
All clutter, from nature's perspective.
Steel, glass, bricks, plastic are clutter. Productivity hacks and to do lists are clutter. And when you live in a city, like me, you are living inside that mess. No wonder your mind feels cluttered, too.
Nature is everyone’s therapist.
John Muir, known as "Father of the National Parks", dedicated his life to preserving the wilderness.
It is thanks to him that the beautiful Yosemite and Sequoia National Parks exist. He knew all about the power of nature, before research was able to confirm it. He said this:
If souls have colours, his must have been deep green.
When you feel like your mind has become murky with thoughts and cluttered with tasks, follow his example. Plan a therapy session with nature.
She will show you, gently but clearly, that things aren't so bad and that life doesn’t have to be so hard. Not by asking any questions, but by simply connecting you with what is true for you. In nature, introspection comes easy. Naturally.
How the forest saved my father.
This is a story about how nature helped my father find clarity when he really needed it a few years ago.
My father was looking out over the city from his penthouse terrace.
Not a cloud in the sky. But it was cloudy in his head. His business was doing badly, and he needed to turn it around soon or would be forced to sell the fancy apartment that he had worked so hard for.
No solutions were coming up, though. He downed his glass of fine scotch and went to bed.
This continued every evening for weeks. Frustrating. All the while, finding a solution became more urgent by the day.
After a few weeks, the situation looked hopeless.
My dad wasn’t sleeping anymore by this time. One morning he woke up tired, with a pressing desire to escape his reality of the past weeks. In a matter of seconds his day plans were cancelled and he drove out to the nearby forest.
The low morning mist was being pierced by sunshine, setting a fairy tale mood for the most introspective walk my dad has ever had. He marched and strolled and trundled and plodded. He growled and mumbled. Until he sat down to stare at his shoes.
The forest healed him.
To his own surprise, once he had let go of the pressure to find a solution, once he started just enjoying the forest around him, an idea came up. And by the time his feet were sore from all that walking, he had a clear plan to save the business.
He had found his clarity. And saved his business.
Eventually, he did sell that city penthouse. Not because he had to, but because he wanted to. My dad now lives next to the forest and walks there every day.
Did you ever experience the mind-clearing effects of spending time in nature? It is magical.
Get out there.
I live in the city, so it takes a conscious effort to make nature a part of my life.
Those reassuring statements that cracking open a window to get some fresh air or taking care of a houseplant is good enough, are not true. It’s good, but it’s not enough. To really connect to nature, you need more.
This is how I make nature a real part of my life:
- Changed my screensavers to natural scenery. Just looking at landscapes is relaxing and makes me want to prioritize time in nature.
- When I find myself sitting on the grass or in the sand, I take my shoes off. It's such a great feeling to let the grass or sand tickle your toes.
- During every walk I make sure to give at least one tree a soft pat on the trunk. Sounds silly, but it's a moment full of love.
- I plan a real nature walk once per month, and my phone is not invited.
- I try to learn about natural life. For example, trying to grow my own herbs, watching a documentary about bee-keeping or going on a weekend course to learn survival tactics in the wild.
Most of all, don’t wait until you’re on that dream holiday.
Your local beach or forest may not be as Instagram-worthy as the exotic ones, but for your mental health that’s actually a good thing.
And while you’re heading out the door, why not take someone else along?
The more people learn to love and appreciate the magical powers of nature, the more they will help preserve it. Mother nature does so much for us. The least we can do is help her survive.
We can’t all be a John Muir, but we can all contribute.
Have a wild day!
PS: If you like reading, you will love "The Overstory" by Richard Powers. It's a Pulitzer price winning novel about the relationship between humans and trees that will change your perspective on what it means to be alive.