Nature and Well-being

A woman walking in forest
Photo by ib rama on Pexels.com

“The natural world and its processes has much to teach us about the flexibility, creativity, and resilience that’s already within us, just waiting to unfurl.”Kelly Barron

Have you ever looked closely at those dense dark forests? There’s a lot we can learn from observing nature, specially plants. Lodgepoles and ferns dot landscapes and forests despite facing adversity from nature in the form of wildfires and lack of sunlight. They grow both in cold, wet winters and dry, hot summers. The wildfires help lodgepoles with their propagation strategy, it helps unlock the seeds in their hard cones, which otherwise would stay trapped inside. Ferns, no matter how small, make their existence felt in dense forests by availing every little spot available to grow. This small insignificant ancient plant “fern” grows everywhere among the large tall trees, including the barks of dead trees, hence populating and flourishing in the forest like no other species.

These plant species due to their resilience, claim to be the “real” kings of the forests where other tall trees hamper growth being dominant. Lodgepoles and ferns don’t just survive catastrophes. They thrive in their aftermath, says Kelly.

Endlessly inventive, unrelenting, and forever evolving, nature’s hallmark is resilience.”

According to Kelly, “Nature is more connected, collaborative, and communal than we realize. Survival of the fittest refers not to the competitive strength of a species but to a species’ “fitness” to adjust to its changing environment. We too can apply nature’s wisdom to improve our mental, emotional, and physical well-being. Learning to adapt, collaborate, and renew ourselves will not only help us live more sustainably on earth, but also—like a towering lodgepole pine—flourish in the face of adversity.”

Many species face conflict when it comes to preying for food and mating, but it takes more energy to fight than adapt. Hence, these conflicts are short-lived. Nature can thrive only through cooperative relationships. A single wolf faces difficulty in bringing its prey down, but a pack of wolves works together so that everyone can have food. Similarly, many flowering plants build a relationship with fungi that helps colonize their roots. Due to this wood-wide-web which is an example of “underground connectivity network”, every plant and tree in the forest receives its share of nutrients.

As humans our primal need is that of connection, we die when we are alone. Covid-19 has been an epidemic of loneliness for us. It has reinforced the idea that humans crave togetherness, they are interconnected. The social distancing has affected our mental health adversely, because we are by nature social beings, we thrive when we socialize.

On the other hand, Covid-19 has also taught us how we have an innate ability to collaborate for mutual survival. Wearing masks, keeping distance, using sanitizers and getting vaccinated are forms of social solidarity that we are going to fight this together for our safety and survival. The give and take in nature exemplifies that we need to deepen friendships and create supportive networks.

Nature also teaches us to rest, renew and regenerate in order to grow and survive. Life is hard, but it persists like nature. Nature faces disasters, it breaks down, lets go, and allows the next generation to continue growth. We as humans have a hard time accepting change and loss in life. We do not see life-shattering events as divorce, death of a loved one, job loss and sickness as an opportunity to grow strong and renew ourselves. We tend to dwell on our past mistakes and mishaps. Kelly says that “by observing nature’s cycles, we can learn to accept the disruption and renewal that occurs in our lives. We can acknowledge the messy middle of transitions and the inevitable growth they foster.”

Catastrophes propel us towards a new level of growth, we struggle through transitions but nature shows us that it allows time for restoration. Alex Soojung remarks that “Rest is not work’s adversary, it’s work’s partner. They complement and complete each other.” Just like some animals hibernate, shed skin, trees lose their leaves, the sun rises and sets, we must acknowledge the wisdom of following activity with rest. We too can withstand the tumult of life, endure with hopefulness and renew ourselves.

Take a nature walk whenever you feel down, and you’ll feel a renewed sense of faith and purpose in life.

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