The understanding that nature benefits our mental and physical health seems obvious. However, the outdoors is now being touted as a new therapy called “ecotherapy” – or restorative contact with nature. What scientists have been studying is what our mothers and grandmothers already knew – - that being outside is good for us. In fact, being out in nature, according to studies is as good for us as many anti-depressants or other medications.
And, there’s another new term coined by scientists who are studying the effect of a lack of nature in our lives. It’s called “nature deficit disorder”, which of course ecotherapy is called upon to correct.
What these new names do for me is to complicate and medicalize what should be a natural and simple activity.
For many people, being outdoors can be a restorative – even spiritual – experience, whether it is conscious or not.
The American botanist and scientist George Washington Carver once said about nature, “I love to think of nature as an unlimited broadcasting station, through which the divine speaks to us every hour, if we will only tune in.”
I was reminded of this recently when on a walk with a small child. As we passed quite a large holly tree on our street, she stood completely still for a good five minutes listening to the small birds that were singing within the tree. Then, with a contented sigh, we moved on. I realized that had I been on my own I would not have stood there for that long, just listening. Listening with her brought me to that quiet place where we could hear the divine and feel connected to something greater than either of us – even in a holly tree on a small road.
No matter what country you live in, or what your culture is, nature speaks a language that we can all understand, whatever our age. Perhaps, it is because we naturally sense that presence of the universal nature of the divine. Many scientists, thinkers, healers and writers have commented on this. Here are a few.
Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better. Albert Einstein
The floral apostles are hieroglyphs of Deity. Suns and planets teach grand lessons. The stars make night beautiful, and the leaflet turns naturally towards the light. Mary Baker Eddy
God writes the gospel not in the Bible alone, but on trees, clouds and stars. Martin Luther
Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul. John Muir
When I admire the wonders of a sunset, or the beauty of the moon, my soul expands in the worship of the creator Mahatma Gandhi
Away from multi-tasking, social media, earbuds for ipods and the endless demands of everyday life, take a health filled moment to ponder and hear the presence of the divine. It can be is as simple as noticing the holly tree on your road.