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Nature Really Does Boost Our Mood

My grandma used to say, "The world is going to hell in a handbasket." That was 50 years ago, can you imagine if she were alive today? 

With 24/7 cable news, the faster than light speed with which we try to accomplish everything; and the hectic work/life imbalance, it’s no wonder we’re feeling a bit overwhelmed most of the time. I’ve got good news though!

A team of researchers from Griffith University published a paper in late 2019 that attempted to find the ‘economic value of protected areas’ of nature for our mental health. Their conclusion was that national parks and reserves save about 6 trillion dollars globally in mental health treatment every year. They considered factors like frequency of green-space visits, socioeconomic status and subsequent quality of life. The findings were that green spaces, or natural landscapes, are hugely beneficial for everyone’s well-being (not to mention wallets), despite the fact that we don’t quite know the scientific reason behind nature’s healing powers.

The calming effects of nature on our minds, seems to be a universal & instinctive reaction.

A Path To Healing

While working at a VA hospital back in 2005 I broke into sobs at work, and I had no idea why. Recently my brother had died, my mother had passed after several years of illness; and I was scheduled for a major surgery with an uncertain outcome in a week’s time; but I had “dealt” with all that. On an intellectual level that was true. 

My boss asked me what was wrong and I honestly replied “I don’t know, nothing I guess.” She took me down to mental health and when he asked me what was going on in my life, I stated “Nothing really.” My boss began running down the recent and upcoming events. The doctor looked at me and gave me the following prescription; “Go home and play in the dirt, and don’t come back until after you a get release after the surgery.” Wait, what?! That’s going to be at least a month! Working takes my mind off things, I just needed to work, give me more work! Now officially on medical leave, I went home as ordered, and I was pissed!

I lived in the woods about a 1/2 mile down a dirt road and had a huge vegetable garden. As I was sitting on the ground one day weeding, it hit me; I needed to get grounded, literally! I hadn’t really “dealt with” anything; I had only shoved it all back into a corner somewhere. I looked around at my surroundings; the trees, flowers, the fruits and veggies; I listened to the bees buzz, the birds sing and other critters scamper. I laid down in the dirt, right there in the middle of the garden, and I cried…a lot. Day after day until the surgery I went into the garden to weed, yes; but also to think, to daydream, to cry, and most importantly, to heal. 

After the surgery, which went very well, I was limited on head movement so I would just sit in a chair outside in the woods for hours; watching, listening.

Nature had become my therapist.

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