The Nature Benefit

The Nature Benefit

A simpler life may improve your health and happiness

Over a period of almost 100 million years, Humans have developed many methods to make life on our planet easier.  We have developed buildings to protect us, transportation to deliver us efficiently from door to door and created ready made food in neat packaging.  It is possible to live almost exclusively in urbanised environment far away from the natural world. But, like a drug that cures an illness, progress does come with side effects.  Our increasing comfort and choice of lifestyle has created distance in our relationship with nature which may well have affected our health and happiness.

This void between modern life and the natural world has resulted in a loss of the basic primitive skills that made us human.  Many of us would struggle to find water in a desert or navigate using the stars. In the modern world, it would be hard to imagine that a typical urban dweller would have the skill or the knowledge to grow enough food to feed a family.  

Imaginations run wild in nature...and so do kids

Our chosen path has led us to focus on what lands in our inbox, what is happening on social media and when the next smart-phone will be released.  Our kids don’t have to worry about repairing belongings when they are broken. We simply order another online and have it delivered the very next day.  Improved comfort and care has led to an increase in human life expectancy and as a consequence we should be happier. Unfortunately, this may not be the case.

Author Brene Brown argues that we have lost our “belonging” to the world which results in a number of consequences including our happiness, relationships with other human beings and connection to the issues that affect the planet.  Big ticket social and environmental issues like famine, climate change and toxic waste happen somewhere else, to someone else. World Health Organisation Statistics relating to depression and obesity are increasing.

As a human race are we investing too much time building the scaffold to support our a lifestyle and as a result forgetting the true meaning of a purposeful life?

Through my work, I witness the significant benefits of nature on a human being

Perhaps we can find a deeper purpose through a reconnection to the natural world.  One of my key findings in my experience taking people into nature is that a human being goes through a process of change when they are immersed in the natural world.  The natural world systematically improves our mood and sense of optimism. The dynamic movement of humans outdoors means that we get fitter and healthier. Extreme athlete, Wim Hof has developed a more radical method to cure modern ailments through nature.  The Wim Hof method uses deep breathing, meditation and ice baths to create a chemical change and alter human physiology.  A number of universities around the world are investigating how his method will have a longer term impact on the immunity of those who practice it.  

In 2012, Professor David Strayer from the University of Utah observed two comparison groups, one of whom interacted with tech devices and the other who spent time in nature.  After a short period, each group was assessed and the group that spent time in nature, reported a staggering 50% increase in creativity and problem solving.  Skills that both led to our evolution and which are all important for our future according to the World Economic Forum.

Creativity and problem solving is increased through time in nature

With such compelling evidence, why do humans find it so hard to connect with nature?  How do we escape from the shackles of modern life and learn to embrace the good stuff all around us.  Using the method described by Darren Hardy in his book, The Compound Effect, perhaps the answer lies in making small micro-adjustments to our daily routine to work towards systematic change.  Like giving up sugar in our coffee, half a spoon at a time, we can change our habits. We don’t have to go ‘cold turkey’ on our modern life, merely seek to integrate what is good about our progress and evolution and the magic of nature. Try some small steps in the right direction and over time, they will lead to a marked change.     

  • Make time to regularly visit a park or walk in nature

  • If you exercise outside, forget the device and give your brain a chance to recharge

  • If you are meeting with a colleague or a friend, choose a walking meeting outside

  • Collect litter whenever you see it

  • Think about what you buy and what you throw away.  Can it be reused or repurposed

Mark McOnie