The Scientific Power of Nature
The neuroscience of nature connection and how it can boost your vitality, brain health and well-being.
Since Reneè Descartes in the 17th century stated that thinking equals being (“Cogito ergo sum”), we have removed the living essence from nature and installed it entirely in our brains.
The practical effect of this philosophical operation is that men could then go into nature and take everything they needed for their industrial development purposes without caring too much, since now nature was deprived of its vital essence, its wisdom and sacredness. As I always say:
You don’t go in a forest with caterpillars if you think it’s sacred.
But the side effect of this is human alienation from Nature. And everywhere we see that this cost is way too high and results in stress, burnout, addiction, violence.
Why we feel bad.
Removed from our natural connection to nature, we lose our compass, that natural orientation tool that we all have inside of us, and that nature has forged over 4 million years of human evolution. This process of natural evolution has made us fit into an environment we hardly spend time with nowadays. But that’s what we’re designed for!
Cut out from our roots, our natural operational system becomes ineffective, since social and environmental conditions do not correspond to what it’s programmed for, and desperately seeks for ways to feel good anyway. Its attempts to self-repair are often dysfunctional, and it’s what we call violence, aggressivity, addiction, apathy, boredom.
Scientific researches from around the world demonstrate that the cost of this process has many facets:
- Lower sensory engagement and activation
- Attention deficit disorders and ADHD
- Higher emotional and psychological illness rates
- Technology and screens addiction
- Addictions of other kinds (substances, sex, violence)
Do you recognise in any of these?
What you can do to feel good!
The good news is that the cure is already available, and you can take it now: NATURE.
More evidence-based researches in neuroscience, psychology, neurology and neurophysiology demonstrate that mindfully practising nature connection has a positive impact on a wide array of aspects of our well-being. To name a few:
- Reduced heart rate and blood pressure
- Improved mood: fewer symptoms of depression, stress and anxiety
- Reduced cortisol (the so-called “stress hormone”)
- Improved immune system (increase in immunoglobulin and natural killer cells)
- Lower levels of inflammatory markers
- Increase in creative thinking and problem-solving skills
- Increase in pleasure perception
- Increased brain cells growth and connections between them
- Increased neurons survival and resistance to damage and stress
- Larger brain volume
- Reduced risk of dementia
- Lowered risk of vascular disease that leads to lower risk of cognitive decline and dementia
- Endorphins release (well-being hormones)
- Improved mind-body connection
- Increased self-esteem
- Increased proprioception and body awareness
- Memory, visual imagery and emotion activation
- Better emotion regulation
- Insights emergence
- Improved intra- and inter-hemispheric communication highways.
But how can you reach these amazing results on yourself?
Here is my 5-steps proven receipt, that I’ve tested with hundreds of people in my nature coaching practice and nature connection workshops.
1. Go in nature!
Take time off to have an easy walk in a park, garden or wood, or along the sea if you can. Pay mindful attention to each step you make, watch in front of you, not your feet. Dedicate at least 20' to this mindful walk. As you walk, map how your body feels, from the feet to the top of your head. Use every step to let every tension in your body just GO away. Let every step make you more fluid as you walk.
2. Listen mindfully to natural sounds.
The sounds of birds chirping have a calming effect on our brains, so as sea waves. They relax our thoughts and stop rumination if you pay mindful attention to them. As you walk, focus deliberately over these sounds, and let them “massage” your ears, and yourself as a whole.
3. Focus mindfully over natural perfumes.
The Phytoncides (essential oils of the wood) naturally present in trees have a powerful relaxing effect on our minds: focus your intention over detecting them moving closer to trees, and breath deeply near the biggest trees in your area to feel their reinvigorating effect.
4. Exercise in nature
As Daniel Wolpert explains in his beautiful TED Talk, the real reason for brains is movement. Most of the above-mentioned benefits come from actively engaging in physical exercise in a natural environment. Walking, running, tree connection practice, dancing, yoga…: take your workout outside to gain much more benefits!
5. Slow down, listen, un-do
The main benefits you can get in connecting with nature will only come if you take time to slow down, enjoy some true timelessness moments, listening to everything inside and around you (sounds, smells, tactile sensations of the air or the sun on your skin…). Take time to sit still, in a comfortable position beneath a tree for example, gently removing any need to do anything. You can set the alarm clock to 30’ from the beginning of your nature-time, so you don’t have to watch the clock or your phone to check what time it is. Un-doing is essential because it sets our mind off of its usual state: doing, thinking, worrying about the past or the future. By sitting still beside a tree, or near a water stream, or the ocean, and avoiding the urge to do anything, you are inviting your mind to explore a different state of consciousness. You are building your presence.
These five steps are actionable, and I hope you can engage experimenting them starting from today.
I’m waiting for your comments below. Let me know how it feels, to unwind with nature!
Nature is the best mentor, for me, it has literally taught me how to be the happy and vital person that I am today, and I’ll be sharing with you more insights in upcoming articles.