Are the birds more active in the backyard or are you simply more present and aware of details you typically block out? The Covid-19 quarantine is highlighting the importance of our connection with ourselves, humanity and the natural world around us.
Fewer Distractions = Increased Awareness
They typical working American is bombarded with information, notifications, expectations and conversations from the moment we open our eyes in the morning till we fall asleep at night. As many people are out of work, working from home or going through some form of career transition our professional lives have changed breaking away from the comfort of our normal routines.
In our personal lives we may initially have more distractions with home schooling, reacting from losing a job or changes in personal relationships based on social distancing. As a new normal sets in though, many of us are developing a deeper perspective on the superficial nature of social media, text conversations, online dating and let’s be honest many of our personal relationships. Shocker when you’re less distracted you’re more equipped to see clearly.
More Awareness = Desire for Connection
With less distraction, more awareness and a bit of perspective on superficial connections in our life we awaken our desire for deep connection. We strive for ways to connect with ourselves. Ways to feel at home sitting still with ourselves when our normal coping mechanisms are no longer easily available. We notice how fulfilling “nature watching” can be and remind ourselves of lying on our backs as children watching the clouds in the sky. Was that connection not more authentic than many of your relationships at work, the grocery store or bank? As we tire of conversations driven by propaganda on our digital devices, video games and sharing memes what remains is a desire for more authentic connection.
Connecting with Nature
Forest Bathing is becoming a more well known term. Forest Holidays reports “Originating in Japan – you may have seen it called shinrin yoku – Forest Bathing is an accepted part of Japanese preventative health care because of the mental, physical and spiritual health benefits it delivers. Also known as forest therapy, it draws on thousands of years of intuitive knowledge – we are part of nature and we have a deep need to feel that connection.
But does it work? Forest Bathing has been around as a concept in Japan since the early 1980’s and scientists there continue to conduct a large amount of research into its benefits, concluding that it deserves its place in the Japanese health-care system. More general research into the area of nature connections suggests that the real and long-term benefits include, among other things, reduced stress, improved immunity, lower blood pressure and accelerated recovery from illness or trauma.
1. Reduces your stress
Yoshifumi Miyazaki, a professor at Chiba University in Japan, has found that leisurely forest walks yield a 12.4 per cent decrease in the stress hormone, cortisol, compared with urban walks.
2. Improves your mood
Academics at Derby University have conducted a meta study of existing research which concludes that connecting to nature can be linked to happiness and mental wellbeing.
3. Frees up your creativity
In one study by David Strayer, a psychology professor at the University of Utah, participants saw a 50% improvement in creative problem solving after three days immersed in nature with all access to modern technology removed.
4. Boosts your immune system
Trees and plants emit ‘phytoncides’ which we breathe in when we spend time in the forest. These have been proven in studies by Qing Li, a Japanese shinrin yoku researcher, to enhance the activity of Natural Killer cells that help our bodies to fight disease.
5. Reduces high blood pressure
Forest Bathing has been proven to reduce blood pressure, a crucial factor in maintaining a healthy heart.
6. Accelerates your recovery from illness
The most well-known study in this area by Dr Roger Ulrich, an architect specializing in healthcare building design, showed that even a natural view from a window reduced convalescence time by a day, compared to an urban view.”