Why we feel better when we're in nature

Photo of a forest canopy

There are numerous studies from academic fields like medicine, green psychology, education and human geography that show how much time in nature benefits us. It lowers blood pressure, calms us, boosts feel good hormones, uplifts, inspires and provides a safe space for us to fully be ourselves- even for a moment. Whatever the academic research shows, there is a palpable difference between how we feel at the end of a long day fulfilling middle world responsibilities and how we feel after a walk on the beach, swim in the estuary or a bike ride in the forest.

However, have you ever thought about where nature starts and ends and what we actually mean by this term ‘nature’? What is nature and what isn’t?

The concept of ‘nature’ is culturally specific. When Settler Australians use the term ‘nature’ or ‘environment’ we mean something that is separate or different to our urban landscapes or courtyard gardens. We mean forests, beaches, national parks, places where there are no, or very limited signs of humans. However for Indigenous peoples all over the world, ‘nature’ as a separate thing or place is an illusion and a dangerous one. Nature and humans can’t be separated, they are bound as one with each having roles and responsibilities in caring for the other. For them, a human/nature binary could lead to people forgetting these roles and responsibilities with disastrous outcomes for everything.

When you think about it ‘nature’ as a separate thing or place ‘out there’ isn’t real. Nature is actually everywhere- the biodiversity that flourishes in your gut, the creatures all over your skin, the alive indoor plants that create the oxygen you breath in and in return kindly receive the carbon dioxide you breath out. There is really nowhere, where nature is not.

What would it mean for us to start imagining and exploring the fact that nature is everywhere and that we are part of it?

Would it make us more attentive to the unending generosities of life reaching up to us as a seedling emerging from highway pavement? Would it help us pay more attention to the special miracles of our Little Blue Planet? Would it change our relationship with life to be more respectful and caring?

Now that many of our restrictions have been lifted, we hope that you will explore these questions whilst wandering our special Coffs Coast. And maybe you will find, like me, that there is something about hearing the Eastern Spinebill piercing the salty air of full blooming coastal heath that you just don’t get from a vertical indoor garden in a shopping mall. It somehow affects me in a different way. It does something special in my body and makes me feel viscerally that I am part of this place, that I somehow belong, and that I am never locked out of nature.