Ever face technological overload? Information burnout? Civilization stress? That is, the dings dinging you daily, the rings ringing you at all hours, the messages messaging you day and night, the friends befriending or unfriending you and the screens flashing light in your face until you think that you’re going to lose it? Sure, we love our devices: instant contact with our spouse, children, parents and friends. And with the click of a mouse or a touch on a screen we can have our purchases delivered to our doors. (My daughter, when about eight, was shocked to learn that we once didn’t have the internet. “You didn’t have the internet?” she exclaimed. “How did you go shopping?”)
The digital world is fine but sometimes the other world, the world of nature, the world of God’s immediate creation — that’s what we really need. That’s what our bodies and souls crave, whether we know it or not.
And yet we know it, don’t we? Who hasn’t at times found comfort, peace and relaxation from nature? Whether out in the woods, the light dancing on the leaves in silent rhythms or along a lake that shimmers in the sun like fragile glass? Among majestic mountains that rise to the sky and take your breath away or along a beach, a meadow or a fertile field rich with the food that you eat growing out of the dirt right before your eyes?
It almost doesn’t matter where you are in nature. There’s something powerfully calming, soothing and healing for the body and the soul there. Once immersed, we can feel it almost immediately. Though we don’t need medical science and research to tell us how much healing we can find in nature, that’s exactly what they tell us: nature is good for us, physically, mentally and spiritually.
TIME magazine had an online article titled The Healing Power of Nature in which it described just that — the healing power of nature. The piece began: “It sounded more like a lark than a scientific study when a handful of Japanese researchers set out to discover whether something special — and clinically therapeutic — happens when people spend time in nature. They were inspired by a new recommendation from the Forest Agency of Japan, which in the early 1980s began advising people to take strolls in the woods for better health. The practice was called forest bathing, or shinrin-yoku, and it was believed to lower stress — but that hadn’t been proven. Since then, a large body of evidence has shown that spending time in nature is responsible for many measurable, beneficial changes in the body.”
Yes, much scientific research simply affirms what we already know: being out in nature is good for us in most every way. The TIME article talked about how time in nature can, for instance, lower blood pressure. With Americans spending about $48.6 billion dollars a year on blood pressure issues, time in the fresh air and sunshine sure sounds like a much more economical way to take care of your heart than by-pass surgery or stints.
Fresh air, sunshine, beauty — how could spending time outside in nature, enjoying it and marveling in it, be anything but beneficial? Studies also show what many people have experienced: time out in the wonders of the natural world can lift your mood.
The National Institutes of Health says that “contact with nature has been tied to health in a plenitude of studies. Time spent in and around tree-lined streets, gardens, parks, forested and agricultural lands is consistently linked to objective, long-term health outcomes. The less green a person’s surroundings, the higher their risk of morbidity and mortality…“
Time in nature is linked to better sleep, boosts in the immune system, reduced depression, reduced obesity, better recovery from surgery, lower heart disease issues and lower diabetes. Of course, no one is saying that if you take a daily walk in the woods then you can throw away your medication but it certainly is a move in the right direction.
Many people can testify to how spiritually uplifting nature can be and how it can draw you closer to God. Talking to the pagans about God, the apostle Paul pointed to nature, saying: “Nevertheless He did not leave Himself without witness, in that He did good, gave us rain from heaven and fruitful seasons, filling our hearts with food and gladness. (Acts 14:17)”
Then there are these famous verses from the book of Job:
“But now ask the beasts, and they will teach you;
And the birds of the air, and they will tell you;
Or speak to the earth, and it will teach you;
And the fish of the sea will explain to you.
Who among all these does not know
That the hand of the LORD has done this,
In whose hand is the life of every living thing,
And the breath of all mankind? (Job 12:7-10)“
In short, get outside into nature more. You, who work so hard; you, who deal with so much; you, who can feel overwhelmed — you owe it to yourself to pamper yourself in God’s creation. And if you dare, when doing it, turn off the device and get a break from the dings, rings and beeps.
Written by Clifford Goldstein