The Power of Nature
We humans are a part of all the natural life on this planet, we come from nature.
Throughout evolution we have always been in and with nature, in fact we are inseparable from our environment. No organism can exist without an environment. We rely on our environment, nature, for food, water, air, shelter and energy. Without nature, we can not exist.
But the modern lifestye has distracted us from a healthy relationship to the natural world and our consumption habits and addictions are altering and destroying our environment, the nature on which we rely for our existence. Most of us are never without our smartphones or far from an internet connection
We are seemingly more networked and connected with each other than ever before, but are we really? Instant access to information is prevalent in modern society. But information is not neccessarily knowledge, or wisdom.
It is clear, and there is plenty of research out there to demonstrate it, that our preoccupation and distraction with information technology and modern consumerism are major factors in our diminishing relationship to the natural world and thus ourselves.
This diminishing affinity with nature has serious effects on our health, wellbeing and happiness.
Nature Deficit Disorders
American author Richard Louv says in his book The Nature Principle, people living in high-tech societies often suffer from what he calls “nature deficit disorder.“
As described by Louv, this is not a medical diagnosis, but a description of the human costs of alienation from nature. These costs include: diminished use of the senses, attention difficulties, and higher rates of physical and emotional illnesses.
Benefits of Being in Nature
During the last two decades more and more research studies have demonstrated the benefits of reconnecting with nature.
Here are some of them:
- Walking in nature may reduce the risk of mental illness.
Participants who went on a 90-min walk through a natural environment […] showed reduced neural activity in an area of the brain linked to risk for mental illness compared with those who walked through an urban environment.
- Experiencing nature decreases rumination and anxiety and improves cognitive abilities.
Nature experience produced clear benefits for affect (e.g., decrease in anxiety and rumination).
Nature experience produced some benefits for cognition (complex working memory span task).
- Certain microbes present in soil may increase serotonin production, making you happier and relaxed.
Mycobacterium vaccae is the substance under study and has indeed been found to mirror the effect on neurons that drugs like Prozac provide. The bacterium is found in soil and may stimulate serotonin production, which makes you relaxed and happier.
Lack of serotonin has been linked to depression, anxiety, obsessive compulsive disorder and bipolar problems. The bacterium appears to be a natural antidepressant in soil and has no adverse health effects.
Sources: “Identification of an Immune-Responsive Mesolimbocortical Serotonergic System: Potential Role in Regulation of Emotional Behavior,” by Christopher Lowry et al., published online on March 28 in Neuroscience.
- Nature contact may enhance the wellbeing of individuals experiencing chronic mental, emotional and physical health difficulties.
Evidence demonstrates that separately, physical activity, social connection, and contact with nature enhance human health and well-being. The case example illustrates how ‘active’, ‘social’ and ‘adventurous’ contact with nature may be combined within a treatment intervention to protect and enhance the health of individuals experiencing chronic mental, emotional and physical health difficulties.
Source: Health and well-being naturally: ‘contact with nature’ in health promotion for targeted individuals, communities and populations. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16916314
- Spending time outdoors is associated with greater vitality.
Being outdoors was associated with greater vitality, a relation that was mediated by the presence of natural elements.
Excerpt from our work with Nature Schooling Ireland:
With the rapid and all encompassing emergence of consumer technology in the last 20 years, many disturbing childhood trends have also appeared: obesity, attention disorders, behavioural problems and depression are rising fast.
Research clearly indicates that Nature Connection is essential for children to develop physical, mental and emotional health.
Howard Gardener, Professor of Education at Harvard University developed the theory of 7 multiple Intelligences in 1983 and recently added the 8th, ‘Naturalist Intelligence‘, which he calls “nature smart”!
Nature School is transformative and transferable as it engages multiple intelligences, and therefore offers each learning type opportunities to grow and shine.
The Author, Mentor and Tracker Jon Young also talks about “nature smart” in a You Tube clip from his own experience over 30 years working with children and youth in the wilderness.
He also points out that Nature Connection is the foundation of a healthy and vibrant Culture as it is really through Nature Connection that we can deeply connect to ourself and then others.
Another good reason why Nature School is so important in our time of uncertainty and climate change is to build resilience and resourcefulness into our children so they can react and adapt appropriately in different circumstances.
And finally Nature Connection develops love and respect for Nature, the realisation of our interconnectedness and our role as humans to take good care of it to secure our future on earth.
Some additional very helpful resource links: