Nature As Therapy

I’m going to try something new with today’s post.  I’m going to wax philosophical.  😛  (You have been warned!) 😉

I read an article recently called, “Suffering From Nature Deficit Disorder? Try Forest Bathing”.  It spoke to the whole reason I enjoy being out in Nature and why I write this blog so I thought I’d expound my thoughts on it (if you’re interested in reading the article, you can do so here.)

The article cites a recent UN report that states the population of our planet is trending towards urban areas.  (As someone who lives in one of the least populated states in the country, this is fine by me.  It means the secluded places we frequent will remain quiet!) 😉  The reasons the article gives for this trend are that urban areas have more jobs, more cultural opportunities, more choices for activities and more services in general.

The study also found that due to this trend, the average American spends close to 90% of their lives indoors (which sounds absolutely horrid to me, but I digress).  As many buildings are climate controlled, this means we’re ingesting a large amount of stale, processed air.  (No wonder I feel claustrophobic sitting in my cubicle!)  The article goes on to describe an ancient tradition for reducing depression and anxiety in Japan called “Forest Bathing”.  This basically means immersing oneself in trees and other greenery for extended periods of time which allows us to get back in touch with our evolutionary roots.

I practice this “natural therapy” regularly.  I suffer from SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder, also called Winter Depression).  This means I get depression caused by the lack of sunlight and, consequently, vitamin D3 deprivation, brought about by the short, winter days that are part of life in the Northern Plains.  The disorder began to manifest itself for me when we moved to the Black Hills.   Here, the need for daylight during that season is at a premium.  The only thing that eases this strain for me, during those dark, winter months, is vitamin D3 supplements and enjoying Nature (and the sun) as much as possible.  Fortunately, we do not suffer a shortage of sunny days here in western South Dakota.  I will also, soon, be making a career change which will grant me freedom from the nearly-windowless box where I am currently trapped during a large percentage of my daylight hours.  😁

I’ve mentioned before that I also struggle with anxiety.  I am amazed at how my symptoms are relieved just by going for a walk in the woods–the musky smell of damp earth; the “crunch” of fallen leaves under my feet with every step I take; the warmth of the sun on my skin; the breeze that caresses my face; the quiet roar of snowflakes slowly cascading down around me–all assist in relaxing muscles I hadn’t even realized were tense to begin with! It doesn’t hurt that therapy provided by Nature also happens to be completely free!

These physcial sensations allow us to connect with Nature on an instinctual, almost primal level.  It’s as though our very Beings crave this connection with our most basic beginnings.  This makes perfect sense.  Humans lived as a part of Nature for millennia; our current fabricated surroundings only being present for a very recent part of our past.  Evolution hasn’t quite caught up to the norms of Modern Civilization yet (personally, I hope it never does).  For me, this therapy-through-Nature has a spiritual element, figuratively speaking.  It is something that can be experienced by both people of faith and those without, and both can benefit from it.  Personally, I am spiritual but I am also a very kinesthetic person, so I learn by experiencing things.  This experience, this communion with Nature brought about by physically interacting with it, allows me to appreciate the Creation, and through that to form a lasting bond with and respect for the Creator.

I write this blog because I want to help others find the same peace in Nature that I have discovered. So, if you find yourself feeling overwhelmed with the stress and fatigue of everyday life, perhaps a walk in the woods would benefit you!

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