I was walking with my dog, Teddy with my 21 month old daughter in tow. Finally, I was outside, somewhere beautiful and was truly happy. I felt at peace. I found a patch of quiet and allowed my mind to wander as Alexa played fetch with Teddy.
At the recent launch of Om in the City, one the retreat programs got me thinking…”what do we envision ourselves to be in 10 years?” Almost 90% of the participants wanted to be with their loved ones in beachfront homes somewhere in the world. And as they described in detail their surroundings, every one of them wanted to be close to nature in some form. Why is this so? What is it about the great outdoors that makes us feel relaxed, and rejuvenated?
George Mackkeron, a young economist from University of Sussex explained “people are happiest when they are well enmeshed in community, friendships, have their basic survival needs met, and keep their minds stimulated and engaged, often in the service of some sort of cause larger than themselves.” In fact, links between happiness, wellbeing and environmental factors are growing interest in study groups.
If you happen to hear fascinating stories of “forest therapy” in Japan and Korea, don’t be alarmed. This was developed in Japan in the 1980’s and has become a cornerstone in preventive healthcare and healing in medicine. Researchers in Japan and Korea have established a robust body of scientific literature on the health benefits of spending time under a canopy of a living forest. Now, forest therapy is being established throughout the world. Some of the scientifically proven benefits include boost in immune system functioning, with an increase in the count of the body’s natural killer cells; reduced blood pressure, reduced stress, ability to focus-even for children with ADHD, improved sleep.
Closer to home, a tree movement by social entrepreneur, Anthea Ong wants to get Singaporeans and residents alike to share their stories about their favorite tree. Why not? Especially thanks to a confluence of demographics and technology, we pivoted further away from nature than any generation before us.
Its obvious that don’t experience nature environments enough to realize how restored they make us feel. And if you look around us, we are increasingly burdened by chronic ailments made worse by spending time indoors, from myopia and vitamin D deficiency to obesity, depression, loneliness and anxiety amongst others. In parts of South East Asia, which suffer the greatest epidemic of staying indoors, rates of nearsightedness surpass 90 percent for teenagers.
Nature as it turns out, is good for civilization. I urge you today to immerse yourself in real nature, celebrate living trees, and enjoy the romantic movement built upon the idea of fusing your mind body and soul with the living air, the blue sky. Beethoven would literally hug a linden tree in his backyard and dedicated his symphonies to landscape. Why shouldn’t you?