When was the last time you walked outside with no other motive other than to simply feel the air on your skin?
Ancient Ayurvedic principles show that the elements in nature (air, fire, water, earth and space) are also present within us. When connecting to nature, we are also developing a deeper connection to the world around us. This is, essentially, connecting to ourselves.
Ayurveda acknowledges that certain weather and seasons can affect the way we feel and respond to events in our lives. It teaches us how the increase or decrease of certain foods help balance the elements brought about during certain times of the year.
It is a system of science that draws on nature rather than working against it to find a cure for common ailments.
Next time your hippie friend decides to hug a tree…go ahead and try it out, too.
He or she may just be on to something.
According to research printed in the Oxford Journal by Anita Pryor, an Australian epidemiologist at the School of Health and Social Development of Deakin University, nature plays a vital role in human health and well-being.
Parks and nature reserves play a significant role in maintaining this balance by providing access to nature even in busy cities.
She suggests that contact with nature may provide an effective population-wide strategy in prevention of ill mental health with potential application for sub-populations, communities and individuals at higher risk of ill health.
She cites Charles Lewis, author of Green Nature/Human Nature: The Meaning of Plants in Our Lives, who says that the healing effects of a natural view are increasingly being understood in stressful environments such as hospitals, nursing homes, remote military sites, spaceships and space stations.
In these environments particularly, as well as for people who work in windowless offices, studies show that seeing nature is important to people and is an effective means of relieving stress and improving well-being.
Have you noticed mini gardens in your local hospital?
These are not simply for decor. They can be regarded as an ancient Ayurvedic connection to nature. Simple healing gardens are being implemented at such facilities to promote wellness.
Psychologist Roger Ulrich was the first to use the standards of modern medical research to demonstrate that gazing at a garden can sometimes speed healing from surgery, infections and other ailments.
He even found that the benefits of seeing and being in nature are so powerful that even pictures of landscapes can soothe the soul.
In 1993, Ulrich and his colleagues at Uppsala University Hospital in Sweden randomly assigned 160 heart surgery patients in the intensive care unit to one of six conditions.
Patients were placed in rooms with either simulated window views of a large photograph of a tree-lined stream or a shadowy forest, one of two abstract paintings, a white panel, or a blank wall.
Surveys afterward actually confirmed that patients assigned to the water and tree scene were less anxious and needed fewer doses of strong pain medicine than those who looked at the darker forest photograph, abstract art or no pictures at all.
And while science tries to implement this age old philosophy with plants and trees in hospital corners, it is something ancient civilizations knew of all along.
Native Americans, for instance, have a reputation of listening to the winds. George Cornell, an Ojibwe professor at Michigan State University, supports this view of the Indian perception of the environment:
He says in his faculty review, “Generalizations about Native American philosophy / spirituality are also on firm footing when discussing the earth. Native peoples almost universally view the earth as a feminine figure . . . . The relationship of Native peoples to the earth, their Mother, is a sacred bond with the creation. . . . Native peoples viewed many of the products of the natural environment as gifts from the Creator. . . . Man, in the Native American conception of the world, was not created to “lord” over other beings, but rather to cooperate and share the bounty of the earth with the other elements of the creation.”
Try it out today…before you go on with your day of computer screens and indoor meetings, take a look at the skies. Touch the earth. Smell the flowers. Feel the leaves of a tree and close your eyes.
As you breathe, allow yourself to just be in Mother Nature for a moment. You may be surprised at how deeply connected to the earth you are through your roots.