Spending More Time In Nature: Why We Need It

by | Jan 12, 2020

‘There is no quiet place in your cities, no place to hear the leaves of spring or the rustle of insects’ wings… The Indians prefer the soft sound of the wind darting over the face of the pond, the smell of the wind itself cleansed by a midday rain, or scented with pinon pine.’Chief Seattle, Suquamish / Duwamish Tribe (c. 1786- 1866)

These words, written by someone who knew what it was to live in harmony with nature, highlight how much we miss out on when living in our urban jungles. We are surrounded by noise and hustle and bustle which makes it difficult to find a place where we can experience peace and quiet.
Nature offers a place where we can open our senses to the gentler things of this world, like the sound of the wind passing through bamboo or water trickling over rocks. In cities, we close off our senses by overwhelming them. Sensory overload is an invasion ‘civilized man’ has become accustomed to. Even when we want to escape the mayhem we often drown out the noise with yet more noise.
Spending more time in nature can teach us to appreciate the quieter moments in life and listen out and look for the little things that make a big difference to our happiness and well-being. 

‘Adopt the pace of nature. Her secret is patience.’ – Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803- 1882)

Spending time in nature teaches us to slow down and relinquish. If only for a time, the need to keep up with the pace of life our towns and cities orchestrate for us. In our towns and cities, we experience downtime in gadgets, games, and entertainment that leaves us feeling more like we’re out of time than having timeout.
Nature detaches us from all that. We find a pace that is in tune with the natural world around us and we learn how to truly relax. If we are on safari, we cannot dictate how long we have to sit and wait for a lion to pass by. Or if we are waiting for the wondrous colours caused by the sun setting behind a mountain range we can’t hurry it along.  The more time we spend in nature the more patient we become and it’s a transferable trait that will help us when we head back to civilization.

’We need the tonic of wildness… We can never have enough of nature.’  – Henry David Thoreau (1817- 1862)

Undoubtedly, spending time in nature re-charges our batteries.  Nature’s wildness can be unpredictable at times and this can help to heighten our senses. It invigorates us, challenges us and motivates us.
It’s also a tonic in that when we are in the midst of the natural world with a group of people who we might not necessarily know, those strangers can quickly become friends. A friendship that’s forged through a common love of nature gives a sense of belonging that might be lacking in our day to day lives.
Spending time in nature can also allow us the solitude we need to collect our thoughts, to regain the balance we need to return to the rat-race again. With our ever-expanding, over-populated cities of 21st-century civilization we now, more than ever, recognize the truth of Thoreau’s sentiment that ‘we can never have enough of nature.’

Few places in this world are more dangerous than home. Fear not, therefore, to try the mountain passes. They will kill care, save you from deadly apathy, set you free, and call forth every faculty into vigorous, enthusiastic actions.’ – John Muir (1838- 1914)

Even those who find it a struggle to cope with life, find that after the initial push to step out of their comfort zone, nature can offer a panacea to their troubles. Nature helps us to become more aware of our surroundings and ourselves. In an era where mindfulness has become a new catchphrase, we have always had nature to escape to, where we naturally become more mindful of our environment and ourselves which aids our physical, mental and emotional well-being.

Challenging ourselves to close our front doors behind us and to do something we have never done before is the antidote to fear and apathy. When we climb that mountain or canoe through rapids we grow and connect with Mother Earth. 

Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better.’ Albert Einstein (1879- 1955)

We learn so much from spending time in nature. Not just about nature itself but even more importantly about ourselves. We learn that we are not the teacher, the truck driver or the CEO but we are alive, connected to the natural world and it can readjust our thinking so that we become aware that we are more important than our jobs or our goals. We are important because we were born on a beautiful and tangible planet that we can experience when we step out of our man-made constraints and feel the freedom that the natural world has to offer.

We can learn things about ourselves that we could never learn in our cities. Practical things like how to safely forage for food or how to make a fire. But personal things too, such as how to be resilient when we’ve got another two hours trekking before we reach base camp, or how to overcome the fear we feel when we hear unfamiliar noises in the dead of night. We learn not only how to survive the elements but how to survive our own fears and insecurities.   

‘None of nature’s landscapes are ugly so long as they are wild.’John Muir (1838- 1914)

Mankind prides itself on its great achievements, its tallest skyscrapers, the longest bridges, and yet what do we do once they are built? We long to have real log fires, real wood flooring, parkland in our neighbourhood or a garden to enjoy. Even though we have been pulled away from nature, many of us feel the pull back to it in some way. More and more of us tend to value natural materials, natural medicines, etc. but what better way to experience nature than by letting it invigorate our senses first-hand with its awesome beauty. 

‘Nature is pleased with simplicity.’ Isaac Newton (1642- 1726)

When we spend an increasing amount of time in nature we begin to realise that we need far less than we have accumulated in our life. Sometimes, when we pack light for our trek into the wilderness it is then when we come to realise that the weight we carry around with us in our day to day lives is a heavy one.
We can learn much from how the birds of the field live or how ants form their communities. Nature is pleased with simplicity and if we spend enough time in its midst we are too.
Nature has so much to offer us and wants so little back in return except respect and care. So let’s broaden our horizons and echo the sentiments of Frank Lloyd Wright (1867- 1959)… 

‘Study nature, love nature, stay close to nature. It will never fail you.’