Nature Is Good for the Soul

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CC BY 2.0. Alan Myers -- A walk through the forest calms and rejuvenates

When life seems overwhelming with its tasks and responsibilities, sometimes the best antidote is time spent outdoors in nature.

Lately my life has been far too busy. I have been juggling family life with three small children, writing daily for this website, starting work on a book, practicing violin for an upcoming concert, and heading up the refugee sponsorship group in my town. I’m also trying to paint every room in our house, clean out the many garden beds, and stay on top of laundry. In the midst of all this craziness, I go to CrossFit twice a week and try to cook homemade meals.

I am not supermom. In fact, I’m going a little bit crazy. My stress level has been high for the past two months and this has a negative effect on my family, my mental wellbeing, and my productivity. Something has to change. Interestingly, I think it all comes down to one thing: I need to spend more time outside. It’s something I used to do a lot of, but recently my daily walks and bike rides have fallen by the wayside, as has sitting outside in the sunshine to read a book.

Nature soothes the soul. It has an incredible way of calming and rejuvenating a person, of clearing one’s mind and creating perspective on all the many tasks that need to be accomplished. Humans are meant to spend time in nature, but far too often we forget about its importance. Scientific studies have shown these benefits to be real.

"Research has shown that people with a greater sense of vitality don't just have more energy for things they want to do, they are also more resilient to physical illnesses. One of the pathways to health may be to spend more time in natural settings.” (University of Rochester)

Did you know we even respond subconsciously to the sound of birds singing in the trees? A 2013 study from the Journal of Environmental Psychology found that bird sounds are restorative to human ears: “Bird songs and calls were found to be the type of natural sound most commonly associated with perceived stress recovery and attention restoration.”

A few hours spent outside can make all the difference in the world. Blogger Tsh Oxenreider describes the wonderful ‘day-after’ effect of being outside:

“The next day? This morning? It has made all the difference. I’m lighter, happier, and ready to get back to work. The kids’ moods are night-and-day different, too—better attitudes, better sleep, kinder words to each other.”

I need more of that. More time spent in nature means time away from my desk, time in the sunshine and fresh air, time to think and prepare for more efficient work, time spent with my children, time to defuse stress and relax so that I am a better mother, partner, and writer by the time I get home.

I encourage you to try the same. Oxenreider suggests making a date with yourself to get out of the house.

“If you’re burning the candle at both ends and you know there’s a little something that’ll restore your soul, find every way to stop and partake in it. This week, make a plan on your calendar to get that thing, that whatever-it-is. Pretend like it’s a top-priority appointment. Because it is. Your soul will thank you.”