Time in nature isn’t a luxury, it’s a necessity.
We evolved in the outdoors. We were designed for the outdoors. We thrive in the outdoors.
Think about that feeling that you get after a long walk in the woods. Think about the sensations you feel on a warm breezy day at the beach. Imagine how it feels to sit in a garden with the warmth of the sun on your face. It’s not an accident.
You were built to be outdoors.
The fossil record suggests that human beings have been on the planet for about 100,000 years and for almost all of that time we were hunter gatherers with extent of ‘indoors’ being caves for shelter. In the last 10-12,000 years we have formed settlements in which to live but until very recent times (the last few centuries) our ancestors would have spent the vast majority of their lives outdoors. Since the industrial revolution, more and more moved indoors to work in the last few decades there has been a huge acceleration in how much time we as a species spend indoors.
And as we spend more time indoors and away from nature, so we have become completely dislocated from it. At the same time, we’ve seen an exponential growth in sickness and ill-health. It’s not an accident that as we become more separate from our environment we become less healthy and able to function. We are sub-optimal examples of our species when we take ourselves away from the environment in which we evolved.
We are part of nature, not apart from it. We need to be in nature to survive and thrive.
Spending time in nature has been shown to (amongst other things) reduce stress, improve sleep, strengthen the immune system, increase our levels of happiness, reduce inflammation and increase our levels of creativity and cognition.
No-one is suggesting that we go back to our evolutionary roots and live as hunter-gatherers, that’s not an option and frankly most of us would not last a day. But what we can do is connect to our own innate nature and give ourselves the gift of time in the great outdoors, helping ourselves to be the best possible humans we can be.
I speak from my own experience – in a job where it was not uncommon to work 100 hour weeks with no time outdoors Monday to Friday, I was physically and mentally unwell. In the ultimate irony, the more time I spent at work, the less good I was at actually working – it’s not possible to perform at a top level without the necessary self-care. One of the most important interventions I made was a commitment to spending more time in nature. The impact was enormous. I now spread this message and take great joy in witnessing the impact it has on others.
Get outside. Get into nature. Breathe in the air. Feel the breeze on your face. Let the heat of the sun on your skin. Smell the earth. Hear the rain. Feel a little bit more human. Feel like a better human.
“One touch of nature makes the whole world kin” William Shakepeare