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Why Nature Is Our Greatest Healer
Image by Dave McClear @ Flickr
By Naomi James, Legends Report Writer
“In moments of great grief, that’s where you look and immerse yourself. You realise you are not immortal, you are not a god, you are part of the natural world and you come to accept that.”
― David Attenborough
With the recently released IPCC Climate Change 2021 report being declared a “code red for humanity” by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, it is more vital than ever that we fight to protect and regenerate our greenspaces, natural habitats, and oceans. We know that biodiversity is declining and that we must do everything we can to slow that decline, but how does nature help us? Few can deny the pleasure derived from going for a walk in the countryside on a sunny afternoon, but how exactly does being absorbed in nature benefit us?
The Savannah Hypothesis
We are inherently linked with nature. Since the beginning of humanity, nature has provided us with shelter and sustenance. It has literally been the source of our survival for millennia. Research by Gordon Orians and Judith Heerwagen suggests that we are naturally drawn to the savannah-like landscapes our ancestors would have thrived in because we are genetically wired to be drawn to spaces that offer everything we need to survive—grasslands for food, clusters of trees for shelter, and clean water to drink. This means that when we visit open green spaces, we instinctively feel more at ease.
The Japanese practice of forest bathing offers a multitude of physical, emotional, spiritual and mental benefits and is a popular pastime with rural and city dwellers alike. Not only do trees release the oxygen that we need to survive, but many trees and plants are the root (pun absolutely intended) compounds in modern medicine. It is no wonder, then, that certain trees release the anticarcinogen limonene and the antibiotics alpha- and beta-pinene into the air which we then inhale, giving ourselves an immune system boost in the process.
We’ve all heard the phrase “getting some fresh air”, but there may be more to that than meets the eye. In the UK, you can find your nearest forest here.
The Health Benefits of Houseplants
I am a self-confessed houseplant hoarder and tending my plants is one of my favourite ways to spend the evenings. The contemplative focus of nurturing a plant and then seeing it thrive is deeply soothing and stress-relieving. Given that indoor plants are also capable of removing up to 87% of toxins in the air, investing in a selection of houseplants is a great way to experience the myriad benefits of nature in our homes and offices.
“Oh, We Do Like To Be Beside The Seaside”
The healing benefits of the sea—otherwise known as thalassotherapy—have been recognised for generations. Seawater has a high mineral content, containing iodine, magnesium, and of course, salt. These minerals not only benefit the outer layers of skin with their antifungal, antiseptic, and anti-inflammatory properties, but they can also be absorbed through the skin, providing a powerful boost to the immune system and helping to regulate the nervous system. I can’t think of a better excuse to treat yourself to a dose of Vitamin Sea! 😉
Whether we are lucky enough to live in a rural idyll, have a balcony abundant with flora, or feel soothed by the urban trees in our neighbourhood, it is more important than ever to nurture our nature.
As our awareness of the natural world around us builds and we learn to fully appreciate the gifts the earth has to offer us, it is worth remembering that the ancient Greek physician and father of medicine, Hippocrates himself, stated that “The physician treats, but nature heals”.
We must take the time and make the effort to protect our greatest healer. Talk to us about connecting with others appreciating the healing and restorative power of nature by filling in the form below...
How To Apply This
I’m a fan of the outdoors.. Even on those miserable days when it’s raining and cold, but the dogs have to be walked. I always find myself refreshed afterwards, glad that I went outside. Reading factual physiological aspects of nature’s impact on us is refreshment for the mind.
I think that a lot of people pass off the benefits to our wellbeing that nature provides as rubbish. Your article is brilliant because it highlights that the positive effects of nature on our mind and spirit is married to the effects it has on our bodies. Not many articles online discuss the science behind this, the chemical reactions that go on in our bodies when we are amongst nature. I love that you gave attention to this and emphasised that the body and mind are meant to work together when on a journey to positive wellbeing.