Step outside! At least, that’s how some fields of science are describing the healing power of nature, a new discipline known as forest medicine or “green healing.”
Research reveals that some of the most effective strategies for depression and stress require little expenditure other than time, and are as easy to access as a walk in the park. Stimuli such as nature sounds and pine scents – coined as “ecotherapy” – reportedly decrease anxiety and depression, improve self-esteem and social connection. And, for some patients can result in a decrease in medication usage.
John Muir, a well-known American conservationist once wrote, “going to the woods is going home”. He felt that nature has a way of resetting our thoughts that puts us in a peaceful mind set – just like a comforting visit to home would do. It seems the benefit really starts in our thinking.
I like a walk in the park as much as the next person. Walking my dog is one of the highlights of my day as it gets me away from sitting in front of my computer for hours, with the added benefit of some quiet time and fresh air. But I live in a climate that is not always friendly to outdoor activity. And there are many of us who live or work where experiencing the great outdoors is limited.
Over the years, I’ve learned that I can experience health no matter what I am doing or where I am if my thinking is focused on spiritual qualities in my life. The charms of the outdoors remind me of spiritual qualities referenced by the apostle Paul, as the “things which eye hath not seen”. We don’t have to see them to experience the spiritual qualities of nature. Rocks and mountains have been referenced as “solid and grand ideas“. Sunshine could be represented in the light of inspiration; fresh snow could be experienced in fresh ideas that help solve a problem.
Finding spiritual inspiration in our daily activities, independent of our actual surroundings or circumstances, has a positive impact on our health and well-being.
My friend experienced the benefits of this when she suffered from deep depression after the birth of her second child. She regularly turned to her Bible and prayer to find solutions and healing whenever she experienced mental or physical problems. In this case, a beautiful Psalm gave her this promise “I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills from whence cometh my help.” (Ps.121:1)
She reasoned that she didn’t have to see physical hills; rather, she had to lift her thinking to a higher, more permanent sense that she was unconditionally loved and cherished as an idea of God. The depressive feelings began to fade completely away in response to her growing conviction that God, as divine intelligence or infinite Mind, was the source of every thought. She tells me she never experienced depression again, including after the birth of another child.
It’s estimated that most of us spend 80-90 percent of our time indoors. This makes staying in touch with nature – if pivotal to our health – a faint possibility for many. But knowing God as the source of divine Love and infinite Mind, provides a mental uplift that can bring health benefits every day of the year, whether we’re indoors or out.
This article appears in several Metroland Media outlets throughout Ontario, such as Simcoe News.