Lesson 3 – The benefits of nature awareness
Introduction to this lesson
Hello and welcome to lesson three – The benefits of nature awareness.
Previously, we explored what nature awareness actually is and how it can bring colour, magic and vibrancy to your daily life. In this section, we will discover some of the benfits of walking with mindful awareness and how it can help in your quest to grow your knowledge and deepen your connection to nature.
What you will learn:
In this masterclass you will learn,
- Why mindful awareness is important
- The benefits of being mindfully aware
- The benefits of being mindfully aware of Nature
- How you can integrate awareness into your daily routine
Nature awareness can bring vibrancy and colour to your daily life – if you learn how to use it. So, are you ready to find out more? Let’s get started!
What are the benefits of Nature Awareness?
We have all been told that spending time outdoors is good for us and spending time in nature is even better. In fact, research has shown that even spending as little as 20 minutes a day or 2 hours a week in nature can have a huge impact on our physical, mental and emotional well being – benefits that even trickle down to our social and community well being.
In some countries, medical doctors have even started giving their patients ‘nature prescriptions’ in an effort to increase motivation and empower health benefits from spending time outdoors.
But have you ever stopped to wonder what ‘being in nature’ means? Is simply being ‘outdoors’ or in a ‘greenspace’ good enough to qualify as being in nature? The answer is both yes and no.
Participants in the studies mentioned above did achieve positive benefits simply from being outdoors and in a greenspace. But, just ‘being’ in nature is not enough. To truely benefit from being in nature, we need to actually ‘be’ in Nature. That is fully aware of, in tune with, interacting with and connected to her.
Nature exposure and the stress response
So, we know that being in nature has physical, mental and emotional benefits. It is refreshing, relaxing, rejuvinating and calming. But, why?
Well, being in nature helps to soothe and calm us activating or supressing the hormones that control our nervou systems. It lowers our heart rate, blood pressure and stress responses, which in turn, helps to reduce anxiety, control depression, boost self-esteem and induce feelings of positivity and joy.
Because, being in Nature helps to reduce the stress hormone, cortisol (which is responsible for inducing our stressed, tensed and anxious fight or flight response) and induces secretion of the relaxation hormone, parasympathetic hormone (or PSH, which effectively counteracts our cortisol response by reducing heart rate, blood pressure and respiratory rate).
In addition, PSH helps in regulating our bodies’ inflammatory and immune reponses, thus enhancing immunity and improving healing. In fact, studies have shown that even having access to images or scenes of nature can improve healing time in patients following surgery.
Not only that, but walking among trees (and the reason forest bathing is so popular) is because the oils and hormones secreted by tree leaves actively promote the release of PSH, increasing its benefit even more.
(It is important to note that this effect can only come into play when we feel safe enough to breathe and allow ourselves to relax and enjoy being surrounded by nature. Otherwise, your fight or flight reponse will overwhelm any attempts at relaxation. So always try to find somewhere where you can feel safe and secure enough to stand still and be peaceful without worrying about your safety or potential dangers around you.)
Additional benefits of nature awareness
Okay. So, we have explored some of the pathophysiology underlying the benefits of being surrounded by nature. But, what about the other benefits of being in nature? Specifically, how does being in Nature with mindful awareness help?
Knowledge and understanding:
Aside from its health benefits, spending time in nature with awareness helps in other ways too. For those interested in growing their knowledge and deepening their nature connection, awareness provides a fantastic tool to achieve this.
Because, as soon as you start spending time regularly connecting to and aware of the nature in an area, you will begin to recognise and identify individual species, their quirks, their changes and their personalities… and even individuals. This encourages you to get hands-on and interact with them on a much deeper level.
As you pay attention, you begin noticing how they change over time too and grow and mature throughout the year, helping you to understand and identify them throughout the changing seasons.
Connection and kinship:
Imagine, you always see a fuzzy red flower, which is surrounded by bumble bees. They seem to love it! Then one day, you decide to bend down and take a closer look. You bring it to your nose to smell it and turn it over in your fingers. It is made up of lots of little flowers! And, its leaves are all in bunches of three.
Somewhere in your memory, you remember that clovers have three leaves. So, you go home and look it up. It is indeed a red clover – and beloved by bees. Now, every time you think about this plant, you can immediately recall its smell, its texture, its colours and its identifying features. It has changed from a generic ‘flower’ and taken on a name and personality.
Not only this, but now whenever you encounter a similar flower, you will know in the back of your mind that it resembles the red clover you met before, which will help speed up the identification process. And, by knowing that it is related to the red clover, you will already have an idea of any potential culinary or medicinal benefits – and its value to local wildlife.
Your field activity
Once you start living and walking with awareness, you automatically begin tuning in to the world around you. You start to notice patterns, changes, differences and similarities.
You begin to learn the life-cycles, personalities, quirks and habits of the trees, plants and wildlife living around you. Consciously or subconsciously, you begin gathering knowledge about all these aspects of Nature, feel part of Nature and connect to her on a much deeper level.
- Think about what being in nature means to you.
- Do you feel safe and peaceful being in nature? If not, why? How can you get around this?
- Try to find five green spaces that are nearby, safe and easily accessible, which you can use for your awareness exercises.
Write all your thoughts and answers to these questions down in the workbook.