No doubt we are spending way too much time indoors. We sit in an office, at home, often in front of a laptop, a smartphone or a TV. Tons of (often useless) information and (terrible) news really bombard us. One of the easiest ways to distract our minds and do something for our personal wellbeing is – spending more time in nature (and I have to admit that I am not doing this often enough)! Nature is a very simple remedy for many problems and – it`s (mostly) free of charge.
As much as I am a “city boy”, I always feel like newborn when listening to the noise of the ocean, smelling pine trees or just staring at a lake in the middle of pristine wilderness (now thinking about the stunning Yukon territory in Canada...).
International studies reveal the positive impact of nature on our wellbeing, our health and – yes! – even on our creativity. David Strayer, psychologist at the University of Utah, recommends to interrupt work as often as possible to enjoy nature – and, as a result, to work more efficiently. He let a few students hike through the wilderness for 3 days and then solve a few tasks – results were 50% better than before. Says Strayer “When we spend time in nature, essential things are happening with us.”
Other studies report that hiking through a forest can reduce stress hormones by up to 16%. It is no secret that overweight and depression are one of the biggest challenges for human beings these days – and one of the reasons is the fact that people spend too much time indoors … and sitting.
Sometimes even just living next to trees and meadows can increase our efficiency. A study of an international team of scientists in Toronto shows that people living in streets with above-average quantities of trees were suffering much less from heart and metabolism problems - how cool is that?
The Harvard School of Public Health states that US Americans spend more time in their cars than outdoor. Can you believe this? And there is so much great nature in this vast country - just think of all the National Parks, rivers, lakes, beaches. We often underestimate the effect of happiness through nature.
Finnish doctors recommend a minimum of 5 hours per month spent in nature in order to prevent melancholia. There are so-called “power hiking trails” in Finland that encourage mindfulness, with signboards saying “Squat down and touch a plant.” There are currently three healing forests in Korea, a country where many people suffer from stress, digital dependence and enormous pressure to perform. As a result, 34 more healing forests have been planned until 2017.
No better description than the statement by Stephen Kaplan of the University of Michigan: “Imagine a treatment that has no side effects, is easy to get, increases your mental capacity and does not cost anything – just go out and enjoy nature.”
So be it. My plan for this year is to spend more time in the mountains, in forests and – whenever time allows – close to an ocean (yeah - Canary Islands, here I come!). Take a deep breath and shut down your electronic devices.
Tip: read the blog of Birgit-Cathrin Duval, an award-winning German journalist who spends a lot of her time in the great outdoors. And that is easy for Birgit - she and her husband have left the city to live in the middle of Germany`s Black Forest - nature at its finest!
Mark Coleman has written a wonderful book about mindfulness and nature - worth to read (and same goes for his website)!
Check the APP with meditations guided by Mark Coleman: