I didn’t realise how important green space was for health until I spent time in a city with limited access to the natural elements. When I made my way to the river and botanical gardens, I felt a noticeable shift in the way I was feeling. I let go of the tension I was holding in my body and felt a deep appreciation of the beauty of the natural world.
So what is the powerful quality of nature all about? What is it about nature that allows us to feel content and reconnected to ourselves?
Research confirms the healing quality of nature. It reveals that the natural environment can reduce stress, which in turn impacts on our body. It can change our mood, but also affect our nervous, endocrine, and immune systems. Alternatively, being disconnected from the harmony of nature can make us feel anxious, sad and helpless, which can elevate our blood pressure, heart rate, muscle tension and suppress our immune system .
The physician, Robert Ulrich, conducted a study on patients who had undergone surgery. One group was provided with a view of trees and the other group a concrete wall. The group with access to nature healed faster and appeared to nurses to have fewer negative effects, spending less time in hospital .
Time spent in nature also connects us to each other and the larger world and this in itself has healing properties. When I go for a walk, I will often meet people along the way and we will exchange a hello. During the day, say, when I am at the supermarket or going about my daily tasks, I notice there is often little connection between people at all. Being in nature seems to support us to be more willing to connect openly with each other, perhaps because we have connected more intimately with ourselves. We can let go of drive and busy-ness, the need to get things done, and we may begin to let people in and make relationships a priority.
Indeed, nature does offer us the chance to relieve ourselves from the tension we feel as a result of how we live our days, but are we failing to bring our awareness to the fact that nature serves a purpose that is so much more? Through its reflections, nature offers the blueprint to all of life, and for humanity to learn to live more harmoniously together.
Research in a Chicago public housing estate with trees and green space around the built environment reported that these residents know more people, have stronger feelings of unity with neighbours, more concern for helping and supporting each other, and stronger feelings of belonging than did tenants in other built environments where the buildings were without trees. In addition, there was reduced risk of street crime, lower levels of violence and aggression between domestic partners and an enhanced capacity to cope with life’s demands .
Scientists have reviewed the effects of nature on our brain. When participants of a particular study viewed nature scenes, the parts of the brain associated with empathy and love illuminated, but when they viewed urban scenes, the parts of the brain associated with fear and anxiety activated . Our body is so sensitive it is constantly providing information about how we feel about our environment. How amazing!
Lately I have been reading about biomimicry. In this Science, engineers, architects, entrepreneurs, biologists etc. look to nature for answers. Nature has a successful history of survival, regeneration, dealing with waste, using only what is needed, and working together within systems, and so it has much to share about achieving balance and harmony. Nature may very well be our expert, far superior and more refined than anything we have achieved thus far as human beings. For instance, to find out how to pump water to the top of a skyscraper, an engineer using biomimicry may look to the detail of trees, or when designing a helicopter, may study the hummingbird, or even the flipper of a whale to perfect a wind turbine blade .
So when the world was made, perhaps it wasn’t by chance that nature was a part of its design. Perhaps it was all part of a grand plan to support us in our lives.
There is also so much in nature that shows us how communities work effectively together. We can see this by observing the ways of the Emperor Penguin, which reflect absolute brotherhood. Their survival relies on each other, and on working as a community, in order to survive the harsh winters. The Meerkats also show us that many families can live together and support each other, as well as the importance of always being aware of what is happening in the surrounding environment. Ants, such a tiny species, work steadily together with such dedication and achieve mighty things, like being able to carry supplies weighing far more than themselves back to their nests… and please, let us not forget the gorgeousness of our bees.
If nature was designed by God, then it was the most loving blueprint we could have been offered to help us to learn to live in a more loving way. And the message is clear – nature is asking us to learn to live on the planet as One and to move away from a life about Self.
What do we learn from all of the reflections in nature?
Our world is an amazing place, here to support us to live with more harmony. Connecting to nature in this way provides the opportunity to look at the world through a different lens, allowing us to feel its constant reflections and to remember we are part of a sphere that is ultimately much bigger than us.
Nature is a gift from the Divine, the most precious gift of all, and it was given to Us as the ultimate support.
By Maree Savins, AssocDegLaw (Paralegal), GradCert HROD, Australia