Being in nature might not seem like the most obvious place to begin when you want to experience a greater sense of community, but more and more the evidence shows that connection to the natural world has a multitude of benefits that support overall well-being and a sense of belonging. Spending more time in nature has proven positive effects for health and wellness.
Harvard biologist E.O. Wilson explains the link between personal well-being and nature as a factor of “biophilia,” the genetically ingrained connection between humans and the natural world that allows us to thrive when we have contact with nature. It turns out that interactions with nature have some very tangible health benefits. Nearby nature provides a positive emotional experience that has been shown to speed up recovery time for hospitalized patients, motivate
healthy behaviors such as exercise, and provide therapeutic benefits to people living with mental disorders. Searching for a connection that bridges these findings, researchers found nearby nature may fundamentally enhance immune function; emotions of awe and wonder (triggered by nature, art, and religion) can have anti-inflammatory effects, reducing levels of the immune triggering cytokines linked to chronic diseases such as diabetes, cardiovascular
disease, and depression.
It might seem difficult to make that connection if you’re living in cities or suburbs and cultivating and tending to the whole garden of our lives does take effort. Here are some practical steps to connect to nature for a deeper, more fulfilling experience of community.
Demonstrate respect and compassion toward the Earth. Activities such as recycling and keeping the places where we live and work clean and beautiful help us to better recognize our connection to the world around us and how this affects the quality of our lives. Modeling this respect goes a long way into creating a better world.
Embrace a sustainable lifestyle. Begin by learning more about our environment and the Earth that sustains us. This is a great activity to share with family and friends. Adopt new ways of being that are in harmony with and honor natural and shared resources.
Be in nature as often as you can. Meet up with friends for a weekly walk on a local nature trail. Notice the trees, water, earth, and sky. As you consider all the components of nature that work together to sustain us, allow yourself to feel the love and gratitude. Let this deep appreciation be a shared joy with others in your community.