I have this habit of hugging trees wherever I go. Yes, I am a tree hugger, literally speaking. Look in any vacation album and you will find photos of me engulfed by trees such as this one. Do you ever feel the pull to mother nature? It might not be to hug a tree per se, but perhaps to star gaze, get your hands dirty in a garden, smell a wildflower or pick up seashells?
As humans we are innately drawn to mother nature and her beauty. Something inside us drives our behavior to engage through all of our senses. Maybe because it just feels right. Maybe because we can safely concede that we are a part of something much larger than our singular being. Maybe because deep down we know that mother nature can heal a soul.
Humans have lived intimately with nature since the beginning of time. It is only in recent history that we have become so far removed. Urbanization, technology, and the speed of our daily lives are just a few of the things that contribute to this diminished relationship.
The health benefits of interacting with nature abound. On the individual level, research has proven time and time again that interaction can support mental, physical and emotional wellbeing. Cognition increases, stress decreases and even metabolic measures such as blood pressure improves. Collectively speaking, research also demonstrates that when green spaces are added to a community the crime rate decreases, social cohesion increases add even larger scope benefits occur, such as a cooler neighborhood temperatures when compared to traditional urban landscapes.
Here is an interesting yet sad tidbit. We are woefully lacking in the time spent outdoors. Children today are only spending a total of 4 to 7 minutes outdoors. Four to seven minutes. Without outdoor time how can children grow to feel a sense of connectedness to mother nature, appreciate its health benefits, understand the wonder of wildlife, be advocates for her future protection, and simply just to value nature in general? By contrast, kids in the United States ages 8-12 in the United States spend 4-6 hours a day watching or using screens, and teens spend up to 9 hours. And adults are no better in this category, topping out on average at 8.5 hours per day. This amount of screen time reduces the amount of time spent outdoors that humans have historically benefitted from. It can lead to physical problems like obesity, as well as mental, spiritual and emotional challenges throughout the lifespan.
During the pandemic folks flocked to green spaces. Perhaps it was because businesses were closed, but it may have also been that innate drive to seek comfort from mother nature, to lessen fear of the unknown, to soothe frayed nerves, or to heal from a wound no one could yet quite articulate? Allowing mother nature the opportunity to mother you will support your holistic wellbeing. Try to put that phone down and hug a tree today, it works for me. And while you're at it, take a kiddo along with you.