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Nature’s Gift: Finding Health in the Wild

By Sophie Carthy


Photo: Karen Lowe Photography


While standing in a lift to my brother’s apartment building, I found myself engrossed in a conversation (2m apart, obviously) with one of the residents. The man’s joy was palpable as he told a wonderful story about his house plant… Yep, that’s correct, his house plant.


Dealing with a terrible smell in his hallway for months on end, he and his wife had tried everything to eradicate the odour – sprays, incense, hanging potpourri, but nothing seemed to work. Eventually, out of pure frustration, he moved his beautiful house plant into the hallway – giving it a nudge and wink in the hope that it would solve his problems. And, miraculously, within a matter of days it did. His explanation was quite simple: nature is our recycling mechanism. It takes in the bad stuff and puts out the good stuff.


Photo: Karen Lowe Photography


Nature Helps Our Brains & Bodies

This transformation of energy is often what we find when wandering through a forest, hiking up a mountain, cycling along a river or lying under a tree. The call of the wild takes away our negative thoughts and feelings and seemingly replaces them with a more level-headed approach to life.


Cheryl Strayed, author of ‘Wild’ took over three months to hike 1100 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail, a journey that lead her from one side of America to the other. She slept with the stars, communed with the moon and frolicked with the foliage until she forgot everything that made her dislike herself. She emerged from nature’s playground as a complete soul – full of admiration for her body, kindness for her heart and love for her mind. The wild helped her to find all the good she thought she had lost.


‘Everybody needs beauty as well as bread’, said John Muir, the infamous naturalist and avid mountain adventurer, ‘places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul alike’. Nature works on its own accord with ethereal intelligence – it heals itself, strengthens itself and replenishes itself without the hand of man. We only have to watch the peonies perfectly flowering for just one week of every year to realise that the natural world has infinite abundance. When we are surrounded by it, we feel it too.


Photo: Karen Lowe Photography


Nature Helps Our Spirit

In the last few months, we have all been affected by the world turning inwards, into a type of enforced hibernation. Before we even had time to piece it all together, we were stockpiling goods, closing our doors and hiding away.


Although this time has allowed many people to slow down, take heed of what is truly important and perhaps even, give birth to some new ideas or hobbies, it has also caused much discomfort. Primarily because we have had two things taken away from us:

Human connection and fresh air.


There is a reason why solitary confinement is the most brutal punishment of the judicial system. Two fundamentals are removed from a human life: social interaction and the ability to be outdoors. People need people. People need nature. Without these two things, we become shadows: simply existing, not living.


Connecting with others provides a platform for validation. We express our ideas, opinions and thoughts which are then received, interpreted and responded to. Sometimes the interaction happens without any words being spoken. We are acknowledged through a squeeze on the arm or a gentle flutter of the eyes. Person-to-person contact makes us feel seen and heard. This is why we crave a hug at the end of a bad day – the connection that is created serves as a tangible reminder that we matter.


Similarly, nature gives us purpose by reminding us that we are an integral part of something bigger than ourselves. The awe we feel when standing under a mountain or watching waves crashing onto rocks tells our brains that there is more to our existence than we can begin to conceive – that the mountain and the sea were here long before us, and will continue long after us. Nature gives us perspective.


Photo: Karen Lowe Photography

Nature Helps Us To Understand

Through validation and perspective, humans grow. We grow in body, in mind and in spirit. We thrive on reactions and interactions: in fact, our serotonin levels actually increase when we do a good deed for someone else. And even more so when we do the same for ourselves. All health really is, is the ability to notice when your body and mind are in need of nourishment – and to do something about it.


At this point in time, it may not be possible to practice this type of self-care through a day at the spa, a meal with friends or a weekend away, but simply stepping outside might just provide another solution. Nature is food for the soul – it’s bounty overflowing with goodness. Taking time to commune with it, can change us. As Albert Einstein very wisely said, ‘Look deep into nature and then you will understand everything better’.


Photo: Karen Lowe Photography




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