-Beautifully written by our Blog Writer Lizzie
In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks – John Muir.
It’s that time of year again: the time of resolutions and setting goals for the year ahead – of looking forward. There’s no end to the ‘new year, new you’ tips you can find online, telling you the latest wellness trends to try in 2018 – a sea of superfoods, Fitbits and workout classes. But here at Agora we’re taking a different approach this New Year, and going back in time, back to our natural, human instincts – through nature.
Humans have an inborn affiliation with nature (biophilia), and science is now proving what we intuitively know to be true: nature makes us happier, healthier, and more creative. Not only do we feel more relaxed and rejuvenated when we spend time in nature, but it also makes us:
- More alert: neuroscientists have found that the frontal lobe – the part of our brain that’s hyper-engaged in modern life – somewhat deactivates when we’re outside, whilst alpha waves, which indicate a calm but alert state, grow stronger.
- More inspired: one study showed that a group of backpackers were 50% more creative after they had spent four days on a hiking trail.
- More altruistic: using MRI scans to monitor brain activity in people viewing different images, Korean researchers found that those who observed urban scenes had increased blood flow to the amygdala, the part of the brain which processes fear and anxiety. Those who observed natural scenes, meanwhile, had increased flow to the anterior cingulate and insula, areas associated with empathy and altruism.
- Sharpens our thinking: one study revealed that performance on memory and attention tests improved by 20% after subjects took a walk through an arboretum.
- Boosts our immune system: our immune cells – our natural ‘killer cells’ – have been shown to increase in forests.
The therapeutic effects of nature were realised far before modern technology allowed us to analyse the human brain, though – in the poems of the Romantics. Writing during the dawn of industrialisation, the Romantic poets saw spending time in nature as a remedy for the weariness that resulted from urban life. Today, in this time of technology and constant distractions and stimulations, we might well feel the same. Nature – where there are no trends, no societal influences or expectations – allows us to be free from the clutter of modern-day life and preserve our natural instincts. Looking back at the Agora Escape last year, I remember the deep sense of peace and composure I felt after our silent walks along the Dorset coastline: I came away feeling restored. Which is why getting out in nature is such an important part of Agora’s wellness initiative, and why you’ll be seeing more nature walks and weekends from us in 2018 – the year to get back to YOU.
At the Escape, Emma gave us each a poem – thoughts on nature, to accompany us on our walks. And so I leave you with some lines from Wordsworth, on our deep interconnectedness with nature and its inner, vital force – a force that can rejuvenate and elevate us:
For I have learned
To look on nature, not as in the hour
Of thoughtless youth; but hearing oftentimes
The still sad music of humanity,
Nor harsh nor grating, though of ample power
To chasten and subdue.—And I have felt
A presence that disturbs me with the joy
Of elevated thoughts; a sense sublime
Of something far more deeply interfused,
Whose dwelling is the light of setting suns,
And the round ocean and the living air,
And the blue sky, and in the mind of man:
A motion and a spirit, that impels
All thinking things, all objects of all thought,
And rolls through all things. Therefore am I still
A lover of the meadows and the woods
And mountains; and of all that we behold
From this green earth; of all the mighty world
Of eye, and ear,—both what they half create,
And what perceive; well pleased to recognise
In nature and the language of the sense
The anchor of my purest thoughts, the nurse,
The guide, the guardian of my heart, and soul
Of all my moral being.
from ‘Tintern Abbey’.