Nature makes us nicer, happier as well as calmer. It fills us with a sense of ease, peace and contentment. By interacting and spending time in it and also by appreciating it we can see wonderful results on our mind and body.
New-York based Pamela Spark, 58, was quite surprised to see her prescription this time. As a patient of acute depression, having panic attacks and an old skin disease she was quite used to having pills, injections and creams but this prescription had none of these. She was only prescribed to visit a nearby park. “My doctor categorically advised that I visit the park twice daily, not missing it even for day. I am allowed to miss the doctor’s visit but not the visit to the park” says Pamela with a sense of relief. She decided to shift to Mandalay leaving New York where she lived in a small apartment in a high rise building in the interior of a densely- populated urban area with no park or garden around. “My daughter’s apartment building in Mandalay is surrounded by magnificent parks where I can easily go whenever I wish. It feels very good to live in a place surrounded by greenery.” A recent study employing satellite technology discovered that access to green space within half a mile of one’s residence is associated with improved mental health. But today’s metropolitan cities worldwide have become jungles of concrete. Green patch has been shrinking. Almost all big cities are loud and alive at night like jungles and something is always going on 24/7. These concrete jungles destroy the human spirit. Mumbai-based psychotherapist Dr. Girish Patel says, “These man-made structures, cars and trains symbolize human confinement. They remind us of our anxieties and stresses with which we deal all the time. Each structure we walk in and out of is a reminder of the various social masks that we are forced to wear with a set of associated obligations. On the contrary, nature makes people happier by reducing stress”.
So what goes inside the brain when we are with nature? Undoubtedly something profound is going on as is suggested by several studies done in the fields of psychology and neuroscience. Answering the question Dr Patel says, “Cortisol is a hormone when released in brain causes stress. It releases much less when we are in the lap of nature. He further says that a growing body of evidence shows definitively that people who in their offices have a view of nature out of their window have a higher job satisfaction, increased performance and lower stress levels. Similarly, in hospitals patients who have a view of nature feel less pain and anxiety and actually heal more quickly. Some doctors call this as “forest therapy”. “Beethoven drew inspiration from rocks and trees; Wordsworth composed while tromping over the heath; and Nikola Tesla conceived the electric motor while visiting a park” writes Florence Williams in her book ‘The Nature Fix: Why Nature makes us Happier, Healthier, and More Creative.’ She shows how time in nature is not a luxury but is in fact essential to humanity and also makes her readers realize that since our modern lives have shifted dramatically indoors, these ideas―and the answers they yield―are more urgent than ever.
Nature is a huge class room offering many lessons to those who wish to reflect and discover. It’s disappointing to see that man forgets the very source -Mother Nature- of all his education, research, advancements and achievements in all spheres of life. One close look at nature reveals how studying nature and the workings of wild life inspired some of the greatest inventions and discoveries; scientists have come up with amazing technologies and products that have changed the world like never before. Coyotes taught us hunting and birdsinspired us to fly; from beavers we learnt to build dams; the bullet train follows the lead from a kingfisher that can enter the water with scarcely a splash.How nature has been the greatest source of inspiration for great artists and writers is proved by their legendary paintings and writings. What Shakespeare would have compared Juliet with if there had there been no rose. Undoubtedly, the natural world has provided global artists with some of its greatest subjects. Famous painter Vincent Van Gogh believed that an artist had to truly know and understand nature.
“Absence of mental peace is growing with an alarming rate today” says Dr. Patel gravely. “Mind can only be peaceful when it’s filled with values and with no impure thoughts. Nature provides us just that”. Some of the most important and valuable lessons are taught by nature. Who taught us to be generous and never expect anything in return? A tree. Ever noticed an ant taking rest? Always busy they teach us to be active, orderly and hardworking. We learn never to lose hope from a river. Great spiritual masters and seers realized the generosity, abundant goodness and magnificence of nature and rightly revered it. In Christianity, earthly paradise existed in a garden, while Noah, the original conservationist, is commanded by God to save every species. Buddhists believe all life is sacred and worthy of compassion –be it the smallest fly or the blue whale.
Human survival is dependent on nature but human beings’ physical and mental well being also depends upon nature. This is truer in case of kids and young adults. 21st century children may prefer to stick to their screens, but getting outdoors matters a great deal for their over-all health. Their senses narrow as they spend less and less time in natural surroundings. The American writer Richard Louv, author of the bestseller ‘Last Child in the Woods’ has defined the phenomenon as “nature deficit disorder”. Kids who play outside are more attentive, and less anxious than kids who spend more time indoors. They are also smarter and happier because nature promotes creativity and imagination and teaches responsibility. Since spending time with nature is not an option but a necessity, let’s unplug ourselves by turning off the TV, radio, laptop and smart phones. Go out in the park and feel the wind upon the cheek; observe the veins of a leaf, sit against the trunk of a tree, or watch a river flow. Next time you’re out walking around, pay attention to what’s growing under your feet. Along with the kids enjoy flying paper airplanes, swimming in the lake, or going out in the rain without an umbrella. With nature you will receive far more than what you seek.