The healing power of nature

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A desire for contact with nature crept into my consciousness almost from the start of the pandemic. I found myself excited for my long daily walks along ghostly New York avenues around my neighborhood. I would venture into Central Park, where I searched for empty pockets that afforded me the privacy to conduct a phone session with a patient while enveloped in the eerie, deserted beauty of the Central Park Urban Nature Reserve during the pandemic. . I started to need these walks viscerally. They, along with the five sweets I gave myself each day, have become my daily treat. I felt soothed, soothed and elated by my walks.

Frederick Law Olmsted, the designer and creator of Central Park, wrote that “beautiful natural landscapes, employ the mind without fatigue and yet exercise it; tranquilizes it and yet animates it; and thus, through the influence of the spirit upon the body, gives the effect of refreshing rest and invigorating to the whole system.

Escape into nature

After escaping to the suburbs to wait for the rest of the worst part of the pandemic, I eagerly embraced the calm green and flowered spaces that had caused me impatience in an early part of my life. There too I reveled in my long walks. I started to enjoy outdoor activities such as sitting around my outdoor fire pit into the cold of January, with friends, enjoying food, drinks and conversation while throwing logs on fire. I didn’t shy away from the cold like I had all my life. Instead, I greeted him energetically and prepared myself with layers of warm clothes and quick movement. My daily bike rides extended into winter when the precipitation permitted.

What happened to me? I am the woman who preferred to walk a hard block rather than a grassy lawn and be surrounded by crowds of sleek and refined New Yorkers rather than suburban and country dwellers dressed in duck shoes. I thought the suburban calm was extremely overrated, and the bustle of New York City was misunderstood by its critics.

I began to examine exactly what I got from this intense urge to interact with nature and the outdoors.

How nature benefits us

After being held captive first in my apartment in the city and later in a suburban house, being outside in nature felt liberating to me. Since we weren’t allowed to be inside with other people, we basically became locked inside, alone or with a small group of people. The outdoors represented freedom constraints of the pandemic. It was the only place we could openly interact with people who were not in our group. It was most people.

As I deepened my forays into nature and the great outdoors, starting to hike more than ever and venture beyond the suburbs to the beach and the countryside, I noticed the smell of earth and foliage, the feel of the air on my skin and nostrils, and the sight of the beauty of the earth’s offerings gave me a feeling of hope and comfort. A feeling that life goes on no matter what and keeps renewing itself. If COVID has brought disease and death, nature has brought renewal and one connection to life without the demands that human relationships bring with them. If daily life during COVID (and a destructive political environment) caused turmoil, nature has endowed us with a feeling of peace and calm. If our COVID existence is filled with anguish, nature comforts us.

The wonder of 21st century technology has given us a way to virtually connect with people, even though we couldn’t connect with them in person. I write extensively about this phenomenon in my recently published book How are you? Connection to the virtual era; A therapist, a pandemic and stories about managing life. Still, most of us have found that we develop zooming or screen fatigue. Living life online, as I call it, has an alienating effect on our human senses and sensitivities. Nature with its gentle appeal to the building blocks of all that gives life and sustains is the balm for overexposure to technology. Immersion in nature offered freedom not only from our pandemic isolation and imprisonment, but also from technology.

Benefits at a glance

  1. Feeling of freedom
  2. Sense of renewal
  3. Hope
  4. Comfort, peace and calm
  5. A connection to life without the demands that human relationships bring with them
  6. Technology release

The well-kept mind

As I contemplated my amazement at my love affair with nature, the outdoors and what they stand for, a book titled The spirit well gardened; The restorative power of nature by Sue Stuart-Smith came out who addressed these phenomena. In it, Stuart-Smith cites a lot of research from the past decades showing that gardening and immersion in nature improves mood and self-esteem and can help relieve depression and anxiety. . I make a connection between gardening (which is part of my passion for nature) and my experiences of building fires, hiking, biking and just being in nature. Paraphrasing the 12th century theologian and composer Saint Hildegard Von Bingen, Stuart-Smith says that “our nervous systems are prepared to function better in response to aspects of the natural world… When we work with nature on the outside, we work with nature. nature inside us. “

Medicinal properties of nature: studies

There is a great deal of research on the restorative power of nature and the outdoors. Here are some examples.

Adevi and Martensson (2013) reported subjects treated for stress disorder in the Alnarp Rehabilitation Garden in Sweden. Their findings were based on interviews with patients who described their experiences in the garden as the most important part of their recovery. The garden made them feel safe and provided them with positive sensory experiences that contributed to their physical and mental well-being. This facilitated positive social interactions with others.

A 2016 study by Black found that subjects seeking to overcome addiction benefited from reestablishing a relationship with nature. Nature served as a higher power and facilitated their ability to use their 12 step programs.

Stuart Smith refers to physician Benjamin Rush’s observation in 1812 that mental health patients who had to pay for their treatment by doing gardening work on hospital premises recovered faster than wealthier patients. who could afford the cost of treatment and “languished within the walls of the hospital.”

The list of research studies offering examples of how people’s mental health benefits from nature is extensive. Many friends and patients of mine echoed the same sentiments. Hope you will try it.


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