29 Nov How Spirituality in the Great Outdoors Improves Wellbeing and Relationships
While traditional scientific therapies such as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy have high success rates when it comes to treating common mental conditions such as depression and anxiety, spirituality can also play an important role in reducing symptoms of these conditions and increasing our general wellbeing.
One 2015 study by researchers at the London School of Economics, found that taking part in a spiritual-based organisation was the only activity associated with sustained happiness – in contrast to other activities such as volunteering for the needy, taking up an academic course, or taking part in political or community events. Science has also shown that modern humanity’s divorce from nature, is costing us dearly, with unfortunately high levels of stress and frustration negatively affecting our sense of self and our relationships with others.
The Relationship between Nature and Spirituality
The Aborigines aren’t the only people to understand the important link between nature and spirituality; the Native American Indians also believed that the preservation of the natural order, was important to appease the greater power that created the Earth. Nature writer, Richard Louv, author of Last Child in the Woods, notes that we have paid a hefty price for alienating ourselves from nature – without regular immersion in verdant areas, he says, anxiety, depression, obesity and stress result. In this altered state of chronic stress, in which our fight or flight response is activated to often or too long, it is difficult to connect with our sensations, thoughts and feelings… how can we be expected to engage in productive relationships with others?
The most powerful effects of being in nature (including a significant drop in stress hormone, cortisol) can be attributed to mindfulness – the sensation of simply ‘being’ in the present moment – which washes over us as soon as we enter into a forest or contemplate the beauty of a natural landscape. There, in silence, we can recognised and honour our negative and positive thoughts and feelings, without allowing them to wrest from our peace and lead us into words and actions that can harmful ourselves or those we love.
A Natural Experience with Your Loved One
Instead of dining out, going shopping or catching a film, why not do something different with your spouse/partner this weekend? Head for a stunning rainforest, lake or mountain area, and take a forest bath? This practice sounds exotic, but it is actually very simple – it involves stepping into a natural area and making an effort to really open your senses of sight, sound, and touch, to the beauty around you. In Japan, this practice is all the rage, and studies have shown that it has measurable, positive effects on stress and mood.
When you take a forest bath with a loved one, it becomes easier to feel a sense of gratitude and connection, as well as sensation that we are part of something greater than ourselves – which many would argue we need for lasting happiness and wellbeing.
Science indicates that those who are spiritual – whether or not they follow a specific religion – enjoy a greater sense of wellbeing. Freedom from stress, anxiety and mood swings enable us to bring our best selves to the people we love. Time spent in the great outdoors is a wonderful way to achieve a state of mindfulness from the second our feet first touch a soft forest floor.