It is now widely known and proven that spending time in nature makes us feel better. However, what specific effects does it have on our general health, mood, and emotions? A more intricate question arises: could feeling connected to nature be the secret to improve ourselves and develop a more empathetic outlook towards the world?
The truth is that Nature harmonizes our hormones perfectly without needing much effort from us: it's proven that spending time in the natural world reduces the production of stress-related hormones like adrenaline and cortisol. At the same time, it triggers the production of happy hormones such as dopamine, oxytocin, serotonin, endorphins, and It also moderates the production of melatonin, the hormone that promotes healthy rest.
All you need is some green therapy
When we experience nature, our parasympathetic nervous system is activated and 'the rest and digest' branch of the autonomic nervous system responds. In contrast to the ¨fight or fly¨ response triggered by stress or danger, when sorrounded by nature our body shifts into a state that prioritizes relaxation and rejuvenation, promoting functions like digestion and energy conservation.
Just three to five minutes spent looking at views dominated by trees,
flowers or water can begin to reduce anger, anxiety and pain
and to induce relaxation.*
The Awakeness of Ours Senses: Observation and Contemplation
Just being outside can give you all the benefits of being in a natural environment. But there are a lot of things you can try out when planning a walk through the park or a day at the beach, only by activating your senses and awaking your curiosity.
An interesting activity, specially if you are with children, is to observe and contemplate the sorroundings.
Observation. When we observe we activate the perception of our surroundings in order to find elements that are not immediately noticeable due to quick glances or routine-induced numbness. "Observation," understood as not only with the eyesight but also refining our listening, taste, smell, and touch in order to explore the details, the fleeting, the tiny. The interpretation of everything that is familiar can have a different meaning and a different scale: flowers, seeds, onions, stones, snails, dragonflies and butterflies will be enlarged to see beyond the obvious and amaze us with their rhythms, colors, textures, sounds, and shapes.
Contemplation: In this case, the focus is on exploring the idea of belonging to something greater, taking time to appreciate the vastness of which we are a part. Look at the stars, at the shape of clouds, listen to the birds communicate between themselves at dawn, glance at the horizon. Some aspects to consider: the place of human beings in the cosmos, the duration of a human life compared to a galaxy, the universe, the power of nature, the diversity in nature.
The practice of observing and contemplating our natural surroundings is also looking a bit at ourselves in a wider scale, and because of that it usually arises philosophical questions both in adults and children. An excercise that not only helps us bring new perspectives about the world but also a more compassionate and empatehtic attitude: we're not just separate beings; we're all part of this big, amazing planet.
Natural Joy Everywhere
Even if you can´t plan an adventure outdoors, there are many ways to connect with the natural world and enjoy its benefits. If we pay attention, Nature is present even in urban spaces and most of the time we don't see it... in the buds of the trees along the avenue, in the weed growing between the tiles, in the clouds moving across the sky between rooftops, in the slow falling of the raindrops over the car window, in the dust particles dancing in a beam of sunlight...
Recent studies have found that feeling connected to nature can produce similar benefits to well-being, regardless of how much time one spends outdoors.
Environment and Behavior, Vol. 46, No. 1, 2014
The music of nature: Listen to nature sounds from all over the Earth in this amazing website https://earth.fm/. Close your eyes and just transport yourself to a night in the Amazon Rainforest or a tropical morning near the ocean.
Some books to read with family:
SLOW DOWN, by Rachel Williams.
50 nature stories with watercolour illustrations that invite you go outside and explore… and see what you find when you take the time to slow down. All around us nature is turning, growing…and working. Every day, hour by hour, magical transformations happen right in front of you...
HERE WE ARE: NOTES FOR LIVING ON PLANET EARTH, by Oliver Jeffers.
A user's guide to life on Earth, the author wrote for his own to born son. From the skies to the animal kingdom to the people of the world and lots of other beautifully rendered examples of life on our planet.
A WORLD OF CALM (2020)
Each episode of this series is designed to transform your feelings through enchanting music, scientifically engineered narratives, and astounding footage. An immersive visual journey to naturally calm the body and soothe the mid.
*Source: Journal of Environmental Psychology