Whereas in my March blog I focused on the loss of connection to others due to lockdown and social distancing, here I will consider the temporary and sudden loss of our connection to nature.
In his book ‘Into the woods’ Dr Qing Li, an immunologist details the wide-ranging benefits of being immersed in nature. The benefits on health and wellbeing of spending time in nature, particularly near trees, appear to be almost too extensive to list here and include positive effects on stress, sleep, mood, our immune systems, depression, anxiety, anger, energy, blood pressure, heart rate variability, creativity and even generosity.
The reasons for these positives are equally varied – and include the presence in such environments of bacteria, chemicals known as phytoncides. Even the colours of woodland soothe us, as well as some of the shapes and patterns that nature shows us – known in mathematics as ‘fractals’. Walking or just ‘being’ in a natural environment invites us to use all our senses – not just seeing and hearing that we often almost solely rely on. Our attention here is more of a ‘soft fascination’ that refreshes us, in contrast to many other times when directing our attention drains and exhausts us. Psychotherapist and druid Philip Carr-Gomm has described lifestyles that we are familiar with as all too often being like this:
“Western consumerism has tended to cut us off from much of life, enclosing us in boxes of metal as we shuttle from our brick houses to our concrete and glass work-boxes. For many of us, work involves gazing into the screen of a small box all day, to return home to an evening spent gazing at another box before falling asleep.”
In addition to our connections to other people and to nature, it is important that we have a healthy relationship with our own self – our inner world. Whilst our link to nature and friends and relatives is currently restricted, the technology of the internet means that talking therapies are still accessible.
As I say on my website “Therapy is all about feeling comfortable – which is why I offer a free, no-obligation initial session” – which for the moment at least, has to be online.