The Miracle of Connecting to Nature
Updated: Jan 7, 2022
A walk in nature can have surprising effects on our physical, emotional and mental health.
Spending far too much time indoors can lead to moodiness, restlessness, anxiety, sleeping disorder and even depression. When emotions start bubbling to the surface, I find that stepping outside and walking aimlessly through the neighbouring forest is very soothing, a bit like being in hypnotic trance, giving my over active brain a well deserved break. In nature, nothing is perfect and everything is perfect. No matter our state of mind, when walking outdoors, the comforting effects of nature soon relax us and bring life into perspective.
Nature itself is the best physician
Just being surrounded by bountiful nature rejuvenates and inspires us.
A walk in nature reduces stress, lowers blood pressure, helps the brain function better, sharpens our thinking, enhances our concentration, all the while reducing depression and increasing positivity. Our ancestral roots are in nature and when we are immersed in it, we feel a sense of wonder and connection. In nature we are grounded, humbled and in awe. When we make physical contact with the earth- called earthing - we connect with the planet and its abundant free electrons transfer into our body. These free electrons are some of the most potent antioxidants known to man.
Tree huggers are not crazy!
Time spent among trees is never wasted time.
I usually look for an oak, easily recognisable with its lobed and mostly rounded leaves, and acorns strewn on the ground. The oak is often regarded as the king of trees and is considered sacred by many. Its medicinal properties are phenomenal. The bark is used as a decoction to treat cold, fever, cough, to stimulate appetite or improve digestion. The acorns, when removed of their tannins, can be used as coffee replacement. And if you miss human hugs, try and hug a tree, it will boost your physiological and psychological health. When hugging a tree, a cocktail of hormones is released: oxytocin, that makes us feel calm and emotionally bonding; serotonin and dopamine, making us feel happy.
Feel it in your body
When you hug a tree, you feel it first in your toes, then up your legs and into your chest and then up into your head.
Get the kids outdoors
In today's world, our children are spending less and less time outdoors and this disconnection to nature has lead to nature-deficit disorder. An expanding body of scientific evidence suggests that the nature experience increases the senses, improves attention, reduces obesity, and lowers the rate of emotional and physical illnesses. Nature provides countless opportunities for discovery, adventure, creativity, problem-solving and developing an inquisitive mind.
For those of you who like foraging
Many of us can't help it...we must go foraging, picking up the wonderful berries that scream at us, or foraging for mushrooms whose aroma recreates the feel of the forest in the kitchen.
There is free food all around us! Get educated. And if in doubt, throw it out!
I love nothing more than walking out through the fields after a couple of days rain. Petrichor is the scent that follows rain, and is very seducing to us humans. The parasol mushroom loves the open field and is quite a feast to the eyes and the palate, and grows a plenty where I live. On some good days, I can find over 50 of them. It grows fast to about 40 cm and the cap can grow up to 30 cm. They taste very nutty and have an umami flavour. I prefer them fried with garlic and parsley, but some handle them like Wiener schnitzel, or veal escalope, coated in egg and crumbs.
Hunting for mulberries and wild blueberries is fun, especially when one of my dogs wolf the whole bush down, beating me to it! The super fruit, blueberry, is a tiny nutritious bomb and offers so many benefits, especially anti inflammatory ones. They are onyx blue in colour and a lot smaller than their cultured counterparts. They can be used in an array of recipes, but I prefer mine cooked with coconut sugar and mixed with yoghurt.
Dandelions often find a place at my table. The French call it pissenlit, which literally means pee-in-bed. That's due to its diuretic properties among other medicinal benefits, and it contains many vitamins and minerals. It tastes wonderful in salads, prepared with olive oil, vinegar, old style grain mustard and honey.
A source of inspiration
Most of my inspiration starts with a walk in nature. The aimlessness of my strolls seems to stir deep thoughts, unexpected connections and creative solutions. It is never done consciously, often surprising me. I'm very visual and have a playful inner child who enjoys giving meaning to cloud shapes and interpretation to messages from the great divine. My brain seems to go with the flow, be in the zone and listen better when I'm outside. A muster of storks, dragonflies, or a nest of local snakes, all have meaning and symbolisms. Storks are a powerful symbol for new life, the dragonfly symbolises change and transformation and the snake can be seen as protector, a symbol of femininity and is associated with the soul's journey. If anything, it makes the walk even more interesting, and it means I am acutely aware of my surroundings, strolling in the now. Awareness is the key, in the here and now, not giving importance nor attention to the flow of thoughts, thus giving our mind a rest, a meditative pause, leaving the worries and negativities at the entrance of the forest path.
The soothing sound of nature
Natural sounds affect our fight-flight-freeze response. Our head clears up when listening to the trickles of water, the rustling of the leaves, the chants of the birds or the busy bees and other insects going about their business. Nature has always inspired composers, and some pieces transport us back to the source of creativity. Rimsky-Korsakov and his Flight of the Bumblebee or Debussy and Clair de lune, transporting us into the very magical essence of nature. Mindfulness is about being in the now, aware of our body, our surroundings. Listening to the sounds of nature brings a calm state of mind and positively impacts our well-being.
Time to go for a mood reset
So time to put the walking shoes on, knot a rain jacket around our waist and let the journey of the senses and the mind begin!