What’s happening to our connection with nature?
By arison, Aug 19 2016 09:42AM
A few occurrences over the last week or so have struck me about how disconnected we are becoming from nature. Not just in the way our increasingly digital worlds mean we spend less time outdoors but also in other aspects of our lives.
My thought train began with hearing a piece on Radio 4 about the growing popularity of artificial grass. It may well be easier to maintain and look more consistently full and green than real grass but what are we losing? By replacing a part of the natural world with something artificial, we are both reducing habitat for wildlife and losing more of our connection to nature. Being in nature is naturally stress-reducing and beneficial for our health and well-being. Thus, I wonder how these subtle disconnections from nature are affecting us?
Shortly after this, I was taking a train to Suffolk and as I looked out of the sealed thick-paned train window, and felt the air conditioning around me, I noticed how detached I felt from the beautiful scenery outside. The green of the fields, the sparkles from the sunshine, the natural breeze were all around me but felt so distant; it was like I was in a bubble looking out at pictures. I could see it; but I wasn’t really there; I couldn’t feel it.
By contrast, the first leg of the return journey was undertaken by an older model of train with much thinner window panes and open windows. I felt so much closer to the world outside. And felt so much more at peace inside. It was far noisier than the stillness of the air conditioned trains yet strangely I felt more relaxed. Probably because I was more connected to nature.
And then on the same train (of thought), I read an article citing studies that indicate positive benefits from walking barefoot. It is thought the direct physical contact with the natural earth – be it sand, grass or soil – may improve mental and physical wellbeing. Yet few of us often experience this as the world we’ve created generally necessitates shoes.
This all made me wonder in how many other ways we are disconnecting ourselves from nature in some way; replacing the natural world with something artificial. And I wonder what effect this is having on our health and wellbeing. And what can we do about it?
Well I guess it’s obvious to say spend more time outdoors: in the garden, park, getting out into the countryside. But what about day-to-day things? Perhaps it’s worth allowing 10 minutes extra for the commute to or from work and finding somewhere along the way to spend 10 minutes being in nature. Yes, stopping to smell the roses. Going outside in your lunch hour. Going for a run outside rather than on the treadmill. Reading in the garden or the park; maybe even spending some time there barefoot and enjoying the feel of the grass beneath your feet.
And I really think that getting out there in nature can help us to gain insights, get ideas, see things in a new way. Interaction with nature – and movement – is a great way to start getting unstuck.