My friend Anjali made a beautiful comment when she shared her observations about nature. On a WA group, there was some discussion about the bird Swallow. She said, “You may not see them much in Mumbai as we rarely watch open sky in Mumbai. But I have observed them in Pune and Vadodara. Swallows nests are art by itself, the way they create them. There are many birds which I have seen sitting on the parapet which reminds me of my childhood.”
Thanks, Anjali for taking me back to my childhood in Mumbai and Pune. Even Mumbai in those times was leafy, and Pune is still quite green. Over a period, some trees were required to be uprooted in Pune for redevelopment, but many new ones have been planted. We humans tend to forget the nature in our rush to live! What does nature do to your persona, your mind, your stresses? I go for my daily walks. My preferred time is 5.30 in the morning. In winter, I do not hear any activity of birds as Sunrise is away. But now with the onset of summer, one hears a lot of chirping going on. Probably Moms are waking up the kids to get ready for school! I walk a tree–lined path, and by the time I end my walk, my body is fresh due to exercise. In my mind, I feel as if I am in heaven as I see the different shades of greens, summer flowers and listen to the songs of birds. All this is accompanied by a cool breeze! Modern young fellow humans walk with the earbuds and are busy listening to music or talking to someone on the phone. Once I had the opportunity to speak to a young lady when she stopped to check what was wrong with her music system. I asked her why does she not listen to God’s music in the form of birds chirping? She gave me a look which meant, these oldies ….
When you are nearer to nature what is the effect? The research tells us that when people are exposed to the natural environment and natural features, they tend to have a reduced stress response. When you are out in nature you have lower blood pressure, better heart rate variability, better mood.
Research also says that the significant change that happens in our mind is in the first five minutes. Later changes are incremental. Working people have higher levels of concentration and lower strain in the afternoon if these people take a walk in the gardens during their lunch break. It may help employees in replenishing the resources needed to perform well on the job during the remaining working day.
The idea that nature is good for us has been gaining ground since the 1980s. First came the biophilia hypothesis, the theory that humans have an innate desire to connect with nature, followed by shinrin-yoku, the Japanese concept that absorbing the atmosphere in forests can benefit your health. Researchers of shinrin-yoku have since identified plenty of physiological and psychological benefits, while globally studies suggest time in nature can restore our ability to focus, increase creativity, lower the risk of depression and even help us live longer.
Then are we waiting for some enticement? Why don’t we at least try to spend some time with nature regularly? One can always argue that it is impossible to do it when you live in cities. But I don’t agree with this at all. This interaction with nature does not cost us anything. I can understand that people are busy with work and do not find time for such activities. To me, it is about setting priorities. Try and find out huge banyan trees that are there in your city, go just see them. I am sure there will be at least one water body like a lake or a river where you live. Just go and sit there. You need not do anything. It is exceptionally soothing to your mind, to your ears to listen to the flow of water. If you try to make it one day picnic on the weekends then you may not get much time, there are other things to do weekends. But make a quick trip to gardens, lakes or walk on leafy roads. Make before the traffic starts.
These are tree house and Manali photos. We have taken such breaks with nature in the background and found them very stimulating. Last year we took one week holiday in Manali, and it was serene. Snow–capped mountains, cool breeze and Sun not too bright. It was a blessing. Three years back we went to Brisbane, Australia. One hundred km north of Brisbane was a tree house resort. Jaya and I went there with one of Jaya’s classmates from her school days. We just hung around in the area which was full of tall trees. One day there was torrential rain, and we could not go anywhere. We enjoyed the onslaught of rains, cards, movies and reading! It was accompanied by cups of tea with rain pouring in the background.
If your work involves sitting in front of a screen all the time, walks on the paths surrounded by the tree are going to be beneficial in two ways. First is the obvious one, walking and second one is the green surroundings cooling down agitation and stress in you. Even though such a simple solutions are available we tend to ignore them; instead we end up going to doctors for treatment for backache and anxiety or stress.
There’s also a lot of work done on the psychological benefits of being in nature – on wellbeing and cognitive functioning. In general, people are happier when they are closer to nature. Happiness is a broad concept, and so we measure things like positive and negative emotions, people’s sense of vitality, being energised and also how satisfied they are with life. When people are immersed in nature, even in urban nature, they tend to have more positive emotions and vitality than when they are indoors.
These are Nainital photos. Being with nature regularly can be compared with sleep or a power nap. When you go for a walk during lunch break in the garden, it is like taking a power nap. Going out on weekends can be considered equivalent of trying to sleep for eight hours a day. Both are equally effective. A holiday in natural surroundings helps you making up for sleep deficit!
These are some of the photos from the area near my house. I am sure there are such areas in each city. You need to locate them and start using them.