'Go and get some fresh air!' 'Go outside and play!' - Who remembers these refrains from our childhoods? Well, our parents were onto something. While most of us instinctively know that going outside is a good thing, there is now more and more research showing how vital being in nature is for our mental health.
Florence William's book The Nature Fix - Why nature makes us happier, healthier and more creative does a great job of explaining exactly why nature is so important. She is interviewed in Episode 2 of the Hurry Slowly podcast, where she talks about the ancient Japanese art of 'Forest Bathing', the fact that there is a correlation of the number of trees in your life and your positive health outcome, and how forest air actually has antiseptic and pro-good microbe qualities.
Sarah Wilson's book on anxiety First We Make the Beast Beautiful spends a whole chapter on the benefits of nature. I've posted a couple of hiking-related excerpts below.
Now I'm the first to admit that growing up, I was more of an 'inside' person. Given the choice, I preferred to be tucked up indoors, and I could never understand my parents wanting to eat 'alfresco', mosquitoes abounding and further to carry the plates! But some of my best memories are of roaming the black sand at our tiny west coast bach with my sister, spending hours poking sticks at sea life, exploring the rugged shoreline. We grew up living next to a farm, and my trusty gumboots and rainjacket were a part of my everyday attire. We had chickens and rabbits and guinea pigs, a dog, cats... plus all the farm animals just over the fence. Mud pie making was a well developed skill, and my sister and I would come in after hours outside, all wind-blown red cheeks and shiny eyes - excited about whatever random discoveries we'd made at the bottom of the garden.
And then I moved out, to Wellington, and fell in love with city life. The urban jungle was my home, an apartment smack bang in the Auckland CBD centre was next. I loved the concrete, the buildings, the hustle and bustle.
As good stories often do, these one includes a full 360, and I've recently discovered that my preferences have intuitively changed again, and I find myself flinging myself into the Waitakere Ranges any weekend I can. After a week of sitting indoors for my job, (often in a small room with windows at least mostly obscured for privacy) I notice how much I'm craving green space. I’m still not a great camper and boating or any adventure sports aren’t things I’m comfortable with. But in my own way I’m finding ways to introduce more nature.
It's not always easy, but here are some things that work for me:
- I run outside, even if it's raining, and try to appreciate any green surroundings
- I make own compost from kitchen scraps, and use it to grow my little herb garden
- We have lots of plants inside, and mostly succeed in keeping them alive (win!)
- I grew a swan plant from seed and recently watched the most incredible metamorphosis
- I mow the lawns, breathing in the grassy scent
- We swim the the sea whenever possible. Yes, I'm the wuss that wears reef shoes always, so I don't have to think about what I'm walking on, but hey, it helps me get in the water!
- Simply taking 5 minutes to sit outside can make a huge difference. The one thing smokers probably have right ;-)
What do you do to get some greenery on the scenery?
I love this: An ode to hiking: