While in cities we are often inundated by a flood of stimuli, nature gives us time out, we have the opportunity to relax and realign. In addition, man as such, has spent significantly more time in nature than in civilization, so you could say in nature we feel at home.
Who doesn't know this:
You drive home from work or school, eat something and meet up with friends right afterwards. We often don't even notice how much we spend time in urban or civilized structures.
Since man-made environments are often dominated by a multitude of stimuli, the brain finds little rest. New information is constantly being processed. Here is a small list of examples.
- Engine sounds
- Construction site noise
- Department store music
- human bustle
- Loudspeaker announcements
- Streetcars / Trains
If this list made you feel a little uncomfortable, it's no coincidence.
Let us now compare this with conventional stimuli to which one is exposed in the forest, or rather in nature, such as:
- the sound of the wind in the treetops
- the view from a mountain
- the flow of a stream
- the scent of a flower
- the rustling of the leaves
You will probably notice relatively quickly when reading that nature at first glance offers much less and more relaxing and pleasant stimuli than a city.
We come from nature
Man as such, as we know him, has existed for about 300,000 years, which can be proven by fossils. Modern man first appeared in Africa. From there he spread along the coast through the Middle East to Southeast Asia. Europe was settled relatively late.
But even after man settled further and further into the big wide world, he did not settle down directly. Only when we cultivated plants and domesticated livestock did man stop wandering. This all happened about 10,000 years ago.
If we now compare the 300,000 years of wandering, in which we lived, so to speak, from hand to mouth (or from nature to mouth), with the 10,000 years in which we have settled down, then we quickly notice that nature is something that has accompanied us for a very long time and still does.
Of course, you could also say that we as humans have only existed for 300,000 years, but that the atoms from which we were formed have been flying through the universe for billions of years. Everything from which you, I and all people you know, consist, are parts of stars and planets which exploded and that thousands of times. Say we come not only from the nature, we also consist of her.
As an aside, this is also a guess on my part as to why we humans like to travel, take vacations, and discover new places. In our history, we have clearly moved around more than we have stayed in one place.
It is virtually in our genes to penetrate the unknown.
Nature and the mental health
Various studies show that going out into nature has a variety of positive effects on the psyche.
However, since I don't want this article to turn into a thousand-page manuscript, I won't cover these studies in their entirety, of course, but rather write about how you can incorporate what science has found into your everyday life. Pragmatically, to benefit you.
Standford University, for example, published a study in which brain scans were taken from various test subjects. Subsequently, the subjects were asked to walk either through a nearby park and others along a busy road. After the walks, brain scans were taken again. The participants who walked through the park had significantly less activity in the brain regions responsible for stress.
Personally, I find this study fascinating because it shows that even a short walk can make a noticeable difference. So if you're not doing so well mentally at the moment, even a 30 minute walk can help.
Of course, nature is not a panacea for any mental illness with this, but should you merely be having a bad day or a stressful week, then a walk in nature can definitely work wonders.
Furthermore, it has been scientifically proven that exercise is by far the best way to keep your brain fit. Yes, a walk through the forest is also physical exercise, but you could also go jogging or hiking and achieve even more well-being in and through nature. But you don't have to overdo it from the beginning. The important thing is that you get out and move around.
Another way to protect your brain from degeneration is to expose it to new experiences. For example, you could explore new areas in nature or at least take a different route to work, listen to new music or try a new hobby.
As already mentioned, nature and even images of nature lowers our stress hormone levels. This can even lead to the fact that pain is perceived less intense.
Impressive, if you ask me.
Recreation in nature
There are a variety of possible recreational activities that you can indulge in nature.
Of course, there is a wide spectrum of people who read this blog. That's why I try to cover the spectrum of activities as broadly as possible, so that there's something for everyone. Also for you.
Shinrin yoku is also called forest bathing in our longitudes.
Forest bathing is about walking through the forest as mindfully as possible and perceiving it as consciously as possible. This can be done in various ways: For example, we can walk barefoot for part of the walk through the forest and thus also perceive the forest through the sense of touch, we can also smell certain plants or look at a particularly striking tree for a longer period of time.
Hiking / Walking
Hiking is similar to shinrin yoku. By walking extensively through, for example, hilly or mountainous landscapes, our brain has plenty of time to absorb the images and stimuli we encounter while hiking.
Outdoor cooking / barbecue
Quickly you have organized a camping stove or go to a barbecue. Now you can virtually get started, throw a few ingredients in a pan or just boil water to prepare a tea.
Since I also like to cook at home, it is all the more beautiful in nature. And more frugal. That you do not have all possible devices at hand, as in the home kitchen shows you in a beautiful way, with how little you can get along.
Besides, there is hardly anything more satisfying than eating a hot meal, however, at home you usually do not have such a beautiful view and the clarity of tranquility.
Watch a sunset
If you have a little less time, you can also just take half an hour and watch the sunset. With a quick look at Google, you can get minutes to accurately predict the sunset. It is best to leave a little earlier to find a nice place where the sunset can be observed well and then it is only to enjoy and then make your way back - much more satisfied.
You can also just go for a nice relaxing swim in the nearby lake or river. Here you can pay more attention to how the water smells, how the pebble or sandy beach feels on your feet or simply enjoy the feeling of almost weightlessness.
However, do not underestimate unknown waters, then nothing will stand in the way of feeling good.
What do you like about nature ?
Since nature is non-judgmental, there are no wrong answers here either. If you haven't found anything you like in the list of nature activities, you can also ask yourself what you personally like about nature.
(Also feel free to write us if you think of anything - we'd love to hear from you).
We are all different. Some are drawn to the mountains, some to the beach, some like to go swimming, others like to climb rocks.
To find out what you like and what excites you, I recommend just going outside. Nature is so versatile and has so many different facets that I am sure you will find something that you enjoy. Just do what you feel like doing and you will quickly find something you are passionate about.
If you can't find something fun to do in nature, you should still go out regularly. As we know, this fact alone will benefit you mentally.
My relationship with nature
Personally, I try to get out into nature as often as I can. However, I would also be lying if I said I was outside every day. However, I firmly believe that I would often feel better if I were outside more.
When I'm going through a phase where I'm not out much (or if I am, it's only on my way to the train station or wherever), I know deep down that it would do me good to spend more time in nature.
Not infrequently, a healthy longing then arises.
On my various travels I have seen all kinds of landscapes. From the Central European Alps to the Kazakh steppe to the jungles and beaches of Southeast Asia.
Although all these places could not be more different, they all had one thing in common. The feeling of appreciation, wonder and beauty.
That feeling when you just look into the distance and your thoughts merge with the landscape. You think about who has seen this view before you. Which people and animals have already been here. Whether this place looked similar or completely different millions of years ago. But relatively quickly you run out of questions and you just enjoy what Mother Nature has to offer.
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