The power of nature to heal, calm and refresh has been understood by humans for millenia, but scientists are just now getting on board and confirming what we have always known.
As a Horticultural Therapist, I have seen over and over again the impact that a few minutes in nature, with hands in the soil, or watering plants, can have on a client. I have worked with older adults with dementia, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and the debilitating after-affects of stroke. The garden and nature never fail to bring positive results.
Humans evolved with nature, and it is only in the last hundred years or so that we have begun to live our lives totally disconnected from the natural world. We live in an artificial bubble of concrete, wood and steel and nature is something that is “out there.” I believe that our mental and physical health has suffered because of this disconnect.
My job as a horticultural therapist is to restore that connection in ways that are therapeutic mentally, physically and emotionally. From a professional standpoint, I think we need the catharsis of nature now more than at any time in recent history.
One of the most amazing things about the natural world is that it is free. And since so many other forms of comfort are closed to us right now, or cancelled, it is reassuring that nature didn’t make that list. All you have to do is walk out your front door and it’s there.
Spring is happening in the Northern Hemisphere, and if you find yourself at home, living a slower life than you have been living, this is the perfect time to commune with your mother — Mother Nature, that is.
Even in the city, there is nature to be had. But no matter where you live, nature is just a short drive away if it is not available in your back yard. Many state and national parks are still open, though with limited facilities, and with the caveat of social distancing. Take advantage of opportunities to be outdoors in the sunshine and fresh air. It will go a long way to staving off the blues and anxiety.
Create a nature scavenger hunt for your kids. Make a list of items for them to search for and supply a lunch bag for them to drop their treasures in. Then sit together and look at each item and talk about it. Depending on the age of your child, you can talk about texture, smell, color, or what its purpose is (food for wildlife, leaves for producing chlorophyll for the plant, seed capsule for holding seeds).
Listen to the birds. Sit quietly for a few minutes and see how many different bird songs you can hear. You can download a bird id app on your phone to help with this fun activity. Merlin Bird ID is one of my favorites, and it is free.
All of these activities have the advantage of taking your mind off the crisis we are facing, and focusing your mind on something enjoyable. When we spend time in nature our stress levels decrease, our blood pressure drops and our sense of well-being increases.
Please don’t miss Spring while you are glued to your phone. There isn’t anything we can do about most of what we are hearing right now. We can quickly become overwhelmed by the fear and anxiety that the daily news cycle is creating.
But mother nature is doing her thing, and she is available to nurture a sense of well-being, bring a smile to your face, and help you reconnect to your sense of wonder. Do yourself a favor — go outside and greet the Spring.