Right now more than half the world’s population lives in a city, many being in the “megacities” of the world. In the beginning of the 1900’s this number was around 14% and in the 1800’s it was only around 3 percent, the numbers are looking to increase over the next 2 decades to as much as 70%.
Why does this matter? Well, the numbers are showing that many children are growing up having never even seen the beauty of the countryside, away from the noise and busy hustle of the city, they haven’t even stood in a forest breathing in the fresh unpolluted air, with the sounds of the birds surrounding their senses, playing and adventuring until the sun goes down.
It’s not only children who are missing out but of course adults too, living life in the city keeping ourselves busy, we are fully engrossed in the rat race, never slowing down, our minds are over stimulated, we don’t know what’s it’s like to sit in peace and quiet, to contemplate our lives and to feel happy, just to be alive in the moment with beauty surrounding us in all it’s natural forms.
As human beings we have an amazing ability to adapt to our surroundings, this is the only reason we survive in the cramped and stifling atmosphere of a city, many animals have suffered and have become extinct because they don’t have the same ability to adapt as we do, so we moved them aside for the sake of human progress, little did we know and (many still don’t) the repercussions of such progress on the longevity of the planet and us as human beings.
We have become so disconnected from what we are born to be connected to, the natural world. This disconnection over the next few decades could be fatal, sound a bit extreme? Well, it’s reality, we can’t sustain this way of living and as much as people want to hide away from that, it’s a fact, our disconnection and our use of natural resources is a strain on the planet and it’s a strain on the human mind.
Many studies have shown that people born and raised in cities have higher rates of stress, anxiety and depression, a person living in a city is overworked, overstimulated and disconnected both socially and ecologically.
Our connection to nature is vital to our lives, with nature in our lives we literally thrive as individuals and of course as a collective.
Here are a few things that spending time in nature provides us:
Absorbing the Sun:
Vitamin D (which is actually a Hormone not a Vitamin) provides our body with an incredible amount of benefits, including a healthier immune system, less chance of diabetes, cancer and diseases such as alzheimer’s, a healthier heart, better hormonal function (including increased sex drive) and of course we feel happier as sunlight helps release the happy hormones (Serotonin, dopamine and endorphins).
We get more restful and restorative sleep:
Spending most of our time surrounded by artificial lights we miss out on our bodies natural sleep patterns, being within nature we are exposed to natural light which of course comes up at a certain time and goes down at a certain time, this allows our bodies to know when it’s time to wind down and relax and when to get up and begin our day.
Nature makes us more creative:
According to David Strayer, Ph.D., a professor of Cognition and Neuroscience at the University of Utah, “Modern multitasking overtaxed brain areas that are involved in suppressing distractions, thinking creatively, and developing a sense of identity.” Strayer discovered that a mere four days backpacking in nature improved people’s creativity by 50%.
Nature gives us clarity:
Spending time in the peace and quiet of the natural world we can’t help but gain clarity on our lives, it gives us the space to contemplate who we really are, what we really want and where we want to head with our lives. Clarity is so powerful.
Nature smells good:
Our sense of smell is closely linked to the parts of the brain responsible for processing emotion. The scents we inhale have an immediate and profound impact. Trees and plants emit phytoncides — a volatile organic compound and wood essential oil. Inhaling phytoncides slows down breathing and reduces anxiety. Residents of some east Asian countries partake in ‘forest bathing’ or Shinrin-yoku, an experience which allows us to be engulfed by, and breath in, the healing powers of phytoncides.
A happy nose it turns out, is a happy human being.
We can breathe fresh air:
Within nature the air is much more pure, spending time indoors a lot or in a city exposes us to a large number of toxins in the air. When we go for walks in the forest or spend time at the beach we allow ourselves to breathe in fresh air to enliven our whole being.
Reduce stress and anxiety:
Spending time in nature gives us the mind space to slow down and put things into perspective, reducing fear and stress levels that would normally overwhelm us in city life.
One study found that students sent into the forest for two nights had lower levels of cortisol — a hormone often used as a marker for stress — than those who spent that time in the city.
In another study, researchers found a decrease in both heart rate and levels of cortisol in subjects in the forest when compared to those in the city. “Stressful states can be relieved by forest therapy,” they concluded.
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It’s clear in so many ways that nature gives us so much, yet many of us give so little back to the earth. Without nature, not one single person on this earth can survive and yet we destroy it for profit and human “progress”.
By forgetting about our connection to the natural world, not only do we as individuals miss out on the incredible beauty the natural world has to offer, but we miss out on full health and vitality of both body and mind.
Our disconnection also means we have created a lot of apathy for nature and what it really gives us, we live our lives in the city or town we live in and we are in our own little bubble mostly forgetting what resources have been taken to make our lives so comfortable. It’s so easy to forget how much the natural world gives us as so many of us are living so disconnected from the source, so let’s recreate that connection, let's get out in the natural world, let’s remind ourselves of the benefits of spending a majority of our time in nature and all it’s gifts it has to offer.
I can imagine a world where both nature and humanity strives and thrives, where even the cities are flourishing with natural beauty, a world where our decisions being made aren’t about profit but instead providing value to the world in whatever form that may take.
There is nothing wrong with creating money and living in abundance, but it becomes wrong when the world we were born into is destroyed without even a thought because we are drunk with “power”, greed and a sense of apathy for the all things that get in the way of that.
The fate of the world and humanity now resides in the decisions we now make and the “re-connection” with what the natural world so willingly gives.
We have a choice to make and each one of us is responsible, the way we live our lives does have an effect, every single one of us is powerful in the choices we make everyday. Nature gives so much and it will keep on giving till it cannot possibly give any more, let’s not take advantage of that but instead be inspired by that giving and give back, even if that means simply spending more time surrounded by it’s beauty and feeling appreciation for that.