April 19th, 2013 by

By Tacy Lambiase

Credit: Amrit Patel/Flickr

Credit: Amrit Patel/Flickr

Sometimes, bad things happen in our lives that can damage us emotionally, physically and mentally. But we’ve known for a while that the presence of nature in our lives can help us heal and overcome obstacles. Spending time in the great outdoors can sharpen our mental capabilities, enhance our creativity abilities and lower our blood pressure and heart rate. Even people recovering from physical injuries heal faster when they have access to nature or even just the ability to look at trees out of their windows.

“As a species that exists within nature, we are incredibly affected by its absence and presence,” writes Neil Chambers on treehugger.com. “Yet, we function in cities and buildings that largely lack a connection to the environment. … The act of simply reconnecting people to the natural elements brings about faster recovery rates, reduced stress and eased symptoms of physical and mental disorders.”

But nature can also comfort people who are experiencing emotional turmoil, such as grieving someone’s death. Coping with the loss of a loved one can be an exhausting and emotionally draining process. When tragedies occur, humans react with emotions ranging from shock and anger to sadness and lasting depression. While mourning can throw us into a state of prolonged grief and despair, the natural world can help us to regain a sense of peace and inner calm.

“Being in nature one becomes aware of the infinite circle of life,” Dr. Kirsti A. Dyer tells Mother Nature Network. “There is evidence of decay, destruction and death; there are also examples of rejuvenation, restoration and renewal. The never-ending cycle of birth, life, death and rebirth can put life and death into perspective and impart a sense of constancy after experiencing a life changing loss or a death.”

Connecting with nature can help people move beyond grief and towards emotional and mental well-being. Taking walks in a park, working in a garden or hiking along a wooded trail are all activities that can motivate individuals to keep moving and stay active in the wake of a personal tragedy.

Perhaps John Muir, one of America’s most active conservationists, knew the emotional benefits of nature best when he advised:

“Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you and the storms their energy, while cares will drop off like autumn leaves.”