Have you ever wondered why given the choice people would book a room in a hotel with a sea or nature view? How walking in the countryside or swimming in the deep blue sea invigorates us and fills us with peace and happiness? As humans, we have an innate need to be close to other life, such as plants and animals. We desire to be connected with nature.

In his book Last Child in the Woods, Richard Louv introduces the term ‘Nature-Deficit Disorder’.  This refers to the loss of connection of humans with the natural environment.  Being in connection with nature benefits our physical, emotional and spiritual well-being, and it should not be compromised for the developments in urbanisation, technology and social media.

Numerous studies and ongoing research demonstrate how staying close to nature improves our general well-being.  Studies are teaching us how people who spend more time in nature have optimum nervous system functions, well-balanced heart conditions, reduced bowel disorders and feel less fatigued.  Such studies further maintain how nature helps us improve our memory, lifts depressive moods, increases our motivation and re-energises us. As a result, we are able to develop more problem-solving skills and are more creative.  Connecting with nature helps also our spiritual well-being by teaching us how to be more appreciative and grateful.  Since our pull towards nature is genetic and innate, being with nature also helps to alleviate loneliness.  The sights, smells and sounds of nature heightens our senses and this teaches us how to be more present in the here and now, pushing aside worrying and anxiety-provoking thoughts.  As a result, we are bound to think more positively and so be happier.

So how can we apply the positive effects of nature into our lives?

  • Walk more.  We know that walking has many benefits for our physical well-being – research is now telling us that it also helps our emotional well-being.
  • Spend more working hours outside – if you have the flexibility to not always be in the office while working, move to the outdoors as much as you can.  Organise meetings in a garden or a restaurant which offers some outdoor space.  Be mobile with your ‘work-station’ and transport it to some outdoor area where you can still access internet if you need it, whilst enjoying and savouring the benefits of being outside.
  • Use plants – at home and/or at your workplace. Plants add beauty to our space – a nice place is a happy place.  However, plants also help to purify the air that we breath.
  • Balance your diet with more natural elements.  We have been told, time and time again, that we are what we eat.  What we consume is an excellent way to stay connected with nature.  So, eating more plant-based proteins, vitamins and mineral helps our body maintain its optimal state of functioning.

We have so much to learn from nature. By staying close to it, observing it and appreciating it we gain the serenity that we all need in this hectic lifestyle, the motivation to keep trying and the energy to carry on.

Stephanie Caruana is a counsellor at Willingness. She offers counselling services to adolescents and adults experiencing some form of distress. She can be contacted on stephanie@willingness.com.mt or call us on 79291817.