Nature was a blessing that I took for granted while growing up on a mountain in Sewanee, Tennessee (a small college town in southern United States). As children, we could walk out of our backdoor and straight into the woods. We spent our weekends and summers hiking and mountain biking across trails with waterfalls, caves, and cliff overhangs.
It was only after spending several years living in Charlotte, North Carolina (a city in southern United States) after college that I began to understand how unique it was to grow up surrounded by nature.
Fast forward nearly 10 years and I now find myself living in New Delhi, India; a city with 18.7 million people, 6.25 million motor vehicles, and with some of the highest levels of air, light, noise, thermal, visual, and water pollution in the world. And, although New Delhi has some very beautiful royal gardens and parks, I have not been able to spend much time there as of late due to high temperatures.
I recently returned to Sewanee, Tennessee for a short visit and found myself re-awakened to the importance of spending time in nature.
Peace and Serenity in Nature
When I first arrived, I immediately experienced two strong sensations; 1) the air on the mountain was so fresh that I could smell leaves, flowers, and even dirt and 2) there was zero artificial noise and all I could hear were cicadas chirping.
I was immediately overcome with feelings of peace and serenity.
We often fail to recognize that the energy of a city affects our stress levels. Without perfect mindfulness, it is likely that we are continuously experiencing and internalizing negative energy from un-mindful drivers, stressed colleagues and friends, noise, and pollution. This is a big reason that we commonly start our day fresh and alert and end our day exhausted and distracted.
Adding to this stress is the fact that we are constantly plugged into our electronic devices. These devices feed us mind-numbing stimulation and negative energy, which inhibits us from focusing on personal development and pursuing our true purpose.
Spending time in nature is an antidote to this stress and negative energy, and studies have shown that spending time in nature has a positive impact on our mental health. For example, researchers have found that the more time people spend in nature, the less likely they are to focus negatively on self and experience depression. Conversely, living in an urban environment increases our level of mental illness.
Yet, despite its benefits, spending time in nature is one of the most underappreciated activities.
If we are to reduce our stress-levels and improve our well-being, it is essential that we increase the amount of time we spend in nature.
Reconnecting our Spirit with Mother Nature
On my most recent walk on Sewanee's Perimeter Trail, I felt my spirit tap into the energy of the trees, rocks, and soil around me. This energy brought me completely into the present moment, as if I had just finished a powerful meditation.
In that moment, I realized that life was going to be wonderful regardless of what was going on in the world. I was also reminded why nature is also known as “Mother Nature.” Because, like a mother, nature nurtures and nourishes us.
In a time of political and social upheaval, our collective spirit could use a daily dose of the loving energy that can be found in nature.