Do you suffer from NDD (Nature Deficit Disorder)? In a related post, we talked about how we are increasingly resorting to ‘nature therapy‘ because many of us are leading urbanised lives. Here, we explain why reconnecting with nature and living sustainably matters for our long term mental health and wellbeing.
There is no denying our modern lifestyles have become super-busy, despite a constant stream of new technology that is supposed to save us valuable time.
Instead of freeing us up from the daily grind, what seems to have happened is we have now become even more distracted and detached from the natural world.
We have become so busy with a daily ‘to-do-list’ as long as your arm, we have forgotten just how much we are missing our primal connection with nature in our everyday lives. We have developed a huge disconnect with nature, and for that, we are now suffering greatly.
Why nature is good for us
We do not have to look far to find well-researched evidence demonstrating nature is not only good for our physical health but also for our mental health, happiness and overall well-being.
Green and blue spaces, no matter whether they are, in the form of open countryside, a beach or a city park, go a long way towards promoting calming behaviour.
No one exactly knows why nature is good for us, but many believe that because we humans are a part of nature, we can draw positive energy from being immersed in it. We are embedded in the natural world, but we seem to have forgotten or lost our deep connections because of the way we have engineered our modern world and lifestyles.
Our mental disconnection from nature
Because we have now become so deeply embedded in our human-made world, many of us have become mentally disconnected from nature.
New research shows us that by simply reconnecting with nature and re-establishing our ancient links with the natural world, we will be able to bring about many health benefits.
It isn’t difficult for us to realise that we too are animals, and knowing our place in nature can provide us with beneficial feelings of joy and meaningfulness.
Simply put, spending regular time in nature makes us happier and healthier!
Getting a dose of nature every day
We can do a lot to help improve our connection with nature through simple everyday actions. If we can seek out just three small encounters with nature each day – by opening our minds to recognising nature on the most subtle of levels, then we can help sustain a good level of interconnectivity with our natural world – no matter how deep we are buried in urban life.
A really simple thing you can try is to take a mental note of the nature that is already around you. For example, notice and relish the sound of the breeze stirring the leaves of a tree or by pausing to listen to the song of a bird.
You could keep a nature-diary and note down these encounters each day. Looking back through your diary and recalling these memories is a form of reflective self-attention that can help improve your psychological health.
Take the Wildlife Trust Challenge
Every June, the Wildlife Trust runs a 30 Days Wild campaign encouraging everyone to value the natural world and introduce more nature into our lives. The campaign has proven to be very successful so far with over 40,000 people taking part each year.
According to research conducted on the campaign, participants demonstrated sustained increases in happiness, health, connection to nature and pro-nature behaviours.
In fact, the campaign has proven so beneficial that the Wildlife Trust has extended the project from 30 Days Wild to 365 Days Wild! It means more people can benefit from sustainably connecting with nature all-year-round and continue reaping the benefits.
Sustaining our emotional connection with nature
The Wildlife Trust’s challenge was an excellent outcome for all concerned. But, what it also demonstrated was improvements in health seen amongst participants were influenced by their increased levels of inner happiness.
However, the relationship between raised levels of happiness and better health had been mediated by the participants increased connection with nature.
So what this means is, by spending time sustainably in nature, people feel happier and more connected with the natural environment – in turn, making people healthier. But it goes much deeper than simply being physically present in nature.
After all, we have thousands of years of evolutionary experience closely bonding us with other living organisms. Our value for nature can be reflected in the choices we make, our experiences expressed as well as the actions we take to maintain our connection to and with nature.
When we are away from nature, by simply reflecting on our experiences through self-directed thinking, our reflective thoughts can serve to improve our values and belief in nature. This can then influence our attitude and emotions about us being part of nature.
Sustaining our human-nature relationship
There is a growing awareness of humanity’s relationship with nature and how this relationship can impact our health.
A deeper level of understanding can be brought to the surface when we allow ourselves to examine our human-nature interconnectivity, despite our more recent technological progressions and move towards urbanisation.
Having a deep realisation of our shared space in the natural world can influence how we experience what is around us. Not just in the here and now, but also with our attitude towards the environment and our want to preserve our relationship with it.
To sustain a positive long-term relationship with nature, we should all take time to find ways to pause, take in the small details around us and then prompt regular reflection to maintain our close connection with nature.
We can all indulge ourselves in a little nature therapy even when we live a very urbanised life. By taking the time to stimulate our senses with regular and small daily doses, we can not only help sustain and improve our level of human connectedness to nature and the natural world, but we can also bring improvements to our own personal emotional health and wellbeing.