How can natural elements be used for city dwellers as multi-sensory engagements to relax their busy minds and concentrate on their essential needs, relieving stress and gaining joyfulness.
“We live in an incredibly busy world …We miss out on the things that are most important to us…crazy thing is that everybody just assumes… that’s the way life is, so we’ve just kind of got to get on with it. That’s really not how it has to be.” according to Mindfulness expert Andy Puddicombe1 .
2The predicament most city dwellers face is this; More stress, less happiness. Throughout the evolution of mankind, we have been inseparable from nature, although the outer environment we live in has evolved tremendously, green spaces still exists in our cities, providing us a means of escape from our stressful lives.
From a horticultural point of view, 3when we interact with nature, not only through eating the fruits and vegetables but connecting with it by viewing, breathing, hearing, feeling and caring for them, we may gain more than we anticipate. Andy Puddicombe also said “We can’t change every little thing that happens to us in life, but we can change the way that we experience it. ” So can nature help to reduce stress?
A series of interventions were conducted:
- ) Language of Flowers:
Participants were shown a board with the names of several flowers and meaning of those flowers as described in well-known literature or ancient traditions, those meanings were hidden by stickers.
They were encouraged to write down what they thought those flowers meant. Afterwards, the stickers were removed, and they were asked to discuss and compare their ideas with their cohorts and what were written on the board, to see whether this concept can lead them to think about connection between themselves and nature.
2.) Experiencing Nature in the City:
A group of 4 participants were led by the researcher from a urban dwelling to a nearby park without prior notice. When they arrived, they were asked to write down basic information about themselves on yellow paper. Afterwards, they meditated for 3 minutes, particularly focusing on their sensations.
Then each of them were asked to choose a ‘stress balloon’ filled either soil, water, stones or air, that fitted best with their stress level, however they were not informed what was inside. Then they had a choice whether to tear the balloon apart or keep it as they were. They were told that these natural elements inside the balloons were not only metaphors of their stress levels, but also important nourishment for plants.
To conclude they were given plants as a memento and asked to record any feedback on green paper.
3.) Mind your peace
Based upon the previous intervention, one more stage was added at the beginning, and order of the procedures were altered.
Participants were asked to meet up at tube station, and follow the researcher to board a train, once on-board, they were asked to fill out the yellow paper before arriving at the next stop.
Upon alighting, they had to choose their ‘stress balloons’ on the platform immediately. They followed the researcher on a short journey to the unknown destination nearby, they were asked to carry their ‘stress balloons’ throughout.
After arriving at the green space, the same procedures as previous intervention were followed. However an additional question was added to the green paper, and they were given more time to discuss among themselves. A designed bookmark and plants were given as mementos.
Through the series of interventions in London I can see the potential of this project. Especially in this current climate, where city dwellers have a need to find inner peace, and plants can serve as a medium to achieve this.
In the future, such ‘engagements’ could play a huge role in China due to the increasing stress levels people experience and the severe pollution in major cities. From the feedback obtained, it was suggested these workshops or ‘green’ walking tours would be a welcome addition to help people who are trying to find their inner peace or simply to get back in touch with nature.