Dr. B is a naturopathic doctor in Ontario, Canada. He is the author of "Rules of Health," a comprehensive guide on healthy living.
We cannot talk about happiness without exploring the impact nature has on it. You may think, how can nature of all things help me become happier? If you think back to all the times you went for a walk in the park or for a picnic, how did you feel? I know that when I am stressed or worried, my number one go-to prescription is vitamin G (for green or grounding). If I just take a walk at a nearby outdoor green space and observe the beauty of nature around me, I feel great that entire day.
New research suggests our relationship with nature may be deeply linked to our happiness. The concept of how we emotionally connect to our natural world is referred to as nature relatedness by some psychologist. It has been found that our emotional connectedness to the natural world is distinct from other psychological connections in our lives. What that implies is regardless of what is going on in our lives emotionally; exposure to nature will increase happiness in our lives.
Another interesting finding is that when we feel connected to nature, we are more likely to live sustainable lifestyles. We are also more likely to support environmental causes. There is a lack of nature in the lives of today’s wireless generation which has seen troubling childhood trends, including the rise of obesity, depression and a complete apathy about the environmental effects of our wasteful behaviors.
A UK study compared the mental health of people who moved from city landscapes to greener, more natural settings, and those who relocated in the reverse direction. The data showed that those who relocated to get a higher exposure to nature were found to be overall happier. Another interesting study found that just 30 minutes of walking in a green space reduced depression in 71% of participants.
Often when we feel run-down, we reach for a cup of tea or coffee, but research suggests a better way to get energized is to connect with nature. Not only does direct exposure to nature increase happiness, but simply even just imagining yourself outdoors has been shown to increase serotonin levels, thus boosting positive mood. Additionally, according to another study, the presence of nature such as indoor plants had an independent energizing effect above that of being outdoors. Who would have thought that not only does outdoor exposure increase happiness, it also makes us nicer people. Studies show that people exposed to greener surroundings demonstrated a more caring attitude than those who are continually surrounded by brick and mortar.
Research out of Japan found out that there may be a chemical reason nature influences us. The plants release airborne antimicrobial compounds called phytoncides. Inhaling these seems to boost a type of white blood cell that attacks viruses and tumors. It has been noticed that people living in heavily forested areas of Japan have lower rates of mortality from several types of cancer. These findings have contributed to a national pastime known as forest bathing where millions of Japanese walk along forest therapy trails to get these health benefits.
I believe that the beauty and majesty of nature helps slow down the perception of time, enabling us to clear our minds and energize our bodies. Nature is in perfect balance and harmony. Reconnecting with nature is a journey back to our real self.
Below Are a Few Suggestions to Help You Find Your Happiness Through Nature
- The best thing you can do is walk instead of using vehicular transport whenever feasible, especially for short distances. Try to plan your walk route through as many green areas as possible such as parks or nature trails. You will get a little exercise and expose yourself to some nature.
- Whenever your day gets hectic and your mind is running a mile a minute, get out into any park and slow down, preferably without being glued to your smartphone, so that all your five senses can get their share of nature. As you slow down, begin to notice the nature around you. Maybe you will identify a tree you have never seen before or a flower that takes your breath away. As you walk slowly, your breathing and heart rate will also slow down, bringing your stress levels back to normal. Your mind will put on the brakes in response and the peace you crave so much will follow.
- When you feel your happiness fading away, find a quite spot of nature, maybe your backyard garden or a pond. Take off your shoes and socks, and take slow, deep breaths feeling the temp and moisture of the earth beneath your feet and the breeze hitting your face and hands and take in the sounds and smells around you. Do this for 20 breaths. You will feel recharged and happier.
- Have a picnic in a season other than summer; it will be a new amazing experience. A picnic in autumn when it’s a bit chilly is invigorating when you are bundled up a bit and you can dig into some warming foods with loved ones. Such new experiences are what life is all about. Beautiful memories are what we will cherish in our later years not all the money and power we have accumulated.
- If you enjoy photography, get outdoors and catch the beauty of nature on your camera. You will get fresh air and sunshine as an added bonus.
- Hug a tree. Yes, I said Hug a tree. Trees are strong, energetic beings and don’t mind sharing their energy with you. When you feel your energy drained or depressed find a nice big tree you resonate with and ask permission to hug it. Then get in close and wrap your arms around the tree and get your body as close as you can. You can even touch your face to the tree. Just stay with the tree with an open mind and observe yourself. You can ask the tree to give you some energy and take away your negativity. When you feel energized and lighter emotionally it’s time to let go. Give thanks as you leave.
- Enjoy cloud watching. When was the last time you laid down on the grass and watched the clouds float by? I’ll bet you did it as a child but haven’t done it nearly as much as an adult. Cloud-watching clears the mind and brings a sense of calm to all your senses. Try it on a sunny day as the different shapes roll past you as the sun tries to peak through each time. In the evening the sunset paints the clouds with beautiful red, pink and orange hues. Do it with your kids or grandkids if you are lucky enough. It will be much more fun seeing how their creative minds work.
I hope you realize the importance of nature and our elusive vitamin G. Try your best to incorporate these habits into your day and watch the magic happen!
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2019 Behzad Azargoshasb
Lorna Lamon on April 04, 2019:
Excellent article and I certainly believe that the closer we are to nature the happier and healthier we will be. Thank you for sharing.