Working in wellness and connecting face to face with the customers that come in the shop everyday, I get a real sense of what’s plaguing people (at least Los Angeles city dwellers). In addition to the pretty universal physical complaints, I often see a general malaise, discontent, a heartache, people desperately looking for connection and a sense of wellbeing. While there are tonics, and flower essences I can, and do, recommend, I think there is a deeper issue that needs exploring, because honestly of late, I have felt in the same boat.
There are numerous articles and studies that verify what we all instinctively know and that is feeling emotionally connected to nature makes us happy and feeling disconnected makes us unhappy. Nature relatedness is actually a predictor of a person’s happiness. That’s fact. We only have to look to Japan and the studies and work they are doing with Forest Bathing to see there is a simple, direct and profound connection between our connection to the natural world and our level of health and happiness. They have found that it is as simple as a person visiting a natural area and walking in a relaxed way. The results are calming and regenerating. There is so much benefit they’ve discovered, that it is an integral part of the healthcare system in Japan.
Hanna and I just the other day after 7 hours in the 600 square foot shop, both felt the overwhelming craving and need for nature. In fact, we got quite crabby about it. We had been working hard and neither one of us had the chance to go for a hike or take a weekend in the woods. We were both feeling depleted and didn’t really know what to do about it. We felt trapped. The malaise set in.
Later that week I was blessed to attend a fundraiser for the Jane Goodall Institute where Jane was present and I had a chance to hear her speak. Of course, she is my idol and I am fascinated by everything she says, but one thing she spoke about really hit home and has given me a shift in perspective.
She was asked if she missed living in the African jungle, in deep, deep nature, as that was where she spent many years and was so much a part of who she is. She now travels 300 days of the year, tirelessly working to save the environment, animal life, human cultures and life on planet earth. She responded by saying she does miss it, however, wherever she is, wherever she goes, she tries to seek out nature.
She gave an example of being in some busy metropolitan airport and there were two sparrows that were living inside the airport, conducting their mating dance. She watched as the female, puffed her feathers and acted like a baby so that the male would feed her, as is their ritual. There was a crumb on the airport floor and the male swooped down to get it, only to miss it as someone walked by and the little bird was forced to abort. This happened three or four times, until finally, the male got the crumb, delivered it to the female and fed her, at which point she wiggled and fluffed her feathers in delight. When Jane looked around, she realized that she was the only person who had noticed the birds and witnessed this beautiful ritual.
Everyone was looking down. Down at phones, or computers, consumed by the tunnel vision that can be modern life. They missed it. It was there, even in a crowded city airport, a little slice of nature in a sea of concrete.
So while deep immersion is amazing, and needed, what about when it isn’t possible? When we live in a city, or work in a 600 square foot shop? Can’t we still tune into the natural world? Isn’t observation, staying present, and seeking out what’s required?
Maybe it is there in a tree lined street, or a dandelion cracking through concrete, or a blue jay flying across the sky with a twig in its’ mouth on route to building a nest, or two sparrows trying to get a crumb in an overcrowded airport. Maybe the point is that we look up, look out. And I bet just those moments, that focus on the green or the alive or natural make us feel more alive, more connected. It is still a form of forest bathing because we are slowing down, tuning into our senses and looking for the natural beauty. It’s there, even in the most unnatural of worlds, that the wild sneaks in.
So I have made a point of looking up, and being curious, noticing the birds that live outside my shop. I say hello to the trees that sparsely line Main Street, and when I can’t go deep, I still make sure I am aware and connected to the natural world. And I know I’m happier because of it.
I wish you a beautiful, green day and I hope you take a minute right now to look up from the computer and see what is outside the window. Your happiness depends on it.