Why You Should Take Advantage of The Hidden Benefits of Nature
When is the last time you took advantage of the hidden benefits of nature?
As I sit here writing this, even through my tightly closed doors and windows, I can hear the melodic peep-peeping of frogs as it drifts over from the pond. I cannot help but smile.
A few weeks ago, on a chilly evening, I jumped out of my chair and yanked open my front door. I did not dare to believe what I thought I had heard – that frog song. In my mind it was way too early and way too chilly to be hearing it.
But I was so excited that it…just…might…be?
And yes, it was!
There, filling the crisp air, was the strident, melodic sound which, to me, signals spring and bare feet and ignites my soul with joy.
Now, mind you, I am fond of many aspects of nature:
Canyons and mountains and milkweed plants; barn swallows and shooting stars and thunderstorms; even my nemesis rabbit that lives under the shed and nibbles down the pussy-willow trees and tulip sprouts each year.
But the pond frogs and their incantations hold a special charm for me that electrifies my zest for life and, at the same time, soothes my spirit.
I have a sneaking suspicion that I may not be alone in this enchantment with nature.
Nature - What Is in It for You?
“I like this place and could willingly waste my time in it.”
~ William Shakespeare
Humankind throughout the millennia has both impacted nature as well as it has been impacted by nature.
All those centuries ago we were totally immersed in nature.
We lived in it: depended on it for our food, shelter, navigation, mobility, and security. With a glance at the sky and a sniff of the air we could tell the approaching weather. We knew which plants to use for medicine, poison, clothing, shelter, and food.
To survive, we needed to be in tune with all that was going on around us.
Today our world seems to be overloaded with technology and void of true nature, yet that intricate dance remains (though some may argue that there is not nearly enough interaction with nature as is needed to be healthy).
And so, you might ask, ’Why, when technology can provide us with so much that we previously relied on nature for, is it in our better interest to heed the call of nature?’
Answer? Because for the moments that we do carve out to connect with nature, we reap huge benefits, even if we do not consciously realize it in the moment:
Increase creativity - I bet this sounds familiar: you are in the middle of a project or problem, and you just cannot think of your next step. You are stuck. In frustration - or desperation - you stare out the window. Or better yet, stomp out of the room and head outdoors. The next thing you know, your mind is (literally or figuratively) wandering.
In those moments of disconnection from your task, you open yourself up to notice and accept other thoughts, sights, sounds, etc. Your mind relaxes, and you begin to envision all kinds of possibilities. Some of these will make you laugh, some will be totally outlandish, some just might intrigue you, and some may even take your project/problem in a whole new direction.
Being in nature alleviates the fatigue and frustration you may have been feeling and stimulates your creativity.
Decrease stress – Looking for a quick, simple way to decrease your stress level? As the saying goes, “Take a hike.” Or even a walk. Or just get outside. In as little as five minutes your body will respond and your mental state will shift without the need to even think about it. Sometimes you can almost feel the stress lifting off of you with each step you take.
Spending time in nature reduces feelings of depression, reduces the production of inflammatory agents in the body, and increases feelings of well-being and happiness. The sounds, smells, and sights in nature can soothe your mind and body.
Enhance connections – Imagine a spider web with all of the strands connecting one part to another. When one strand is broken or damaged, it affects the strength of the entire web. This is very similar to your life.
By immersing yourself in nature you become more in-tune to your surroundings. You begin to notice patterns in the world around you, be they times of the day that certain animals come around, cloud formations and weather, which plants grow best where, etc. And you become an active participant in the world around you, perhaps caring for the health of your environment and adding to its beauty by planting a garden or setting up bird feeders.
In doing so you also become more connected to yourself. You realize what feeds your soul and what you would just as soon not touch with a ten-foot pole.
You also gain more opportunities to interact with other people as you all are enjoying being outside. Building connections with others brings feelings of community and security.
Nature helps you to make a variety of connections, and the more connections you nurture within and outside of yourself, the healthier and happier your life becomes.
Amplify awareness – Nature invites you to live in the moment - What is happening right now? What do you see? Hear? Smell? Feel? How is it impacting you physically, emotionally and spiritually?
Being consciously aware of the ants trekking along the sidewalk or the sound of the breeze in the trees snowballs into you being even more deeply and consciously aware of your surroundings and self. You notice the abundance in nature, from leaves to raindrops to clouds. You realize the ebb and flow of life, from seedlings to thriving plants to decaying vegetation.
And in the awareness you glean from nature, you begin to see, understand, and appreciate much of the same reflected in your own life: details, patterns, abundance, life cycles.
Boost energy – How often have you heard someone remark on their depleted energy level? Well, nature restores your energy and makes you feel more alive again. Turn off your technology, head outside, breathe in the fresh air, feel the wind on your face, take in some Vitamin D from the sun, and relax. You will find yourself with a clearer mind, increased memory power, and a rejuvenated body.
“Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better.”
~ Albert Einstein
Whether you hop outside to sit in a park, place a houseplant in your bedroom, throw open the window to let the fresh air and birdsong in, or gaze at a photo of the beach, nature begins to work its magic in as little as fifteen minutes.
It is a readily available, personalized, inexpensive miracle-worker, just waiting for you take advantage of its hidden benefits.
We all have our peeping frogs.
What is that particular aspect of nature that lights up your soul and brings a smile to your face?
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If the sun is shining, my Crosstrek is calling me to fill up her tank, throw open her sunroof, and head for the back-roads. With wind in my hair, I smile at everyone I see. Grace smiles back at me (even through the trees).