Getting Back To Our Roots: The Importance of Spending Time In Nature

Getting Back To Our Roots: The Importance of Spending Time In Nature

Apr 5, 2024

Shakespeare’s Juliet once declared, “A rose by any other name would still smell as sweet.”

So what's in a word when you think about the landscape? Is it a thing, a place, or both at the same time? Is your experience with the landscape immersive, or is it that place beyond the windows out there? Like a distant friend, is the landscape pleasant but not familiar?

A Past of Ecological Exploration

man looking at map overlooking a large body of water and mountains

As modern post-industrial times continue to evolve, we are being ushered further and further away from where we came from. The out-of-doors, Mother Earth, and the natural landscape. No matter what words you choose to think about it, before the 1900s, the outdoors was once our home and where we spent most of our waking time.

Nature was the place where we once grew our own food, built our own shelters from it, and harvested meat, wheat, and berries. For thousands of years, there was a symbiotic relationship between mankind and nature, not so much through conscious choice but out of necessity...and it worked!

As we toiled out there, we breathed in the fresh air. As we planted and dug, we strengthened our bodies. As we hunted and gathered, our conditioning grew. In these wide-open spaces, our spirits were in a constant state of renewal. And so it goes, and so it went until the mid-1850s or so.

The Technological Revolution

large group of people looking at down at their phone screens instead of taking in their surroundings

Over the past 150 years, mankind has ushered in countless innovations that have been intended to make our lives easier, more comfortable, and more convenient. Innovations to improve the flow of people, products, and information and breakthroughs in medicine, science, and technology have all seemingly worked together to make this world a better place to live and a better time to exist in. But has it really?

On the one hand, yes, of course it has. We can now travel in hours to places where that same journey took several months if it was even possible at all. We live in comfortable homes, not giving much thought to the electricity that powers our appliances, lights the night, the natural gas that's piped to heat and cook, and the internet wire providing instant news and communication. Modern medicine has made things that were once potentially life-changing or even fatal merely a treatment away from health restored.

But on the other hand, not so much. These very same innovations have provided improvements to our perceived health and well-being and have also had the effect of causing us to remain inside and still for far too long and for far too many reasons. We can experience a good portion of what life is without leaving our seats. We gladly accept the comforts these things provide us, and we tend to watch the world more than participate in it now.

The problem is that true health and vitality are not spectator sports. To get the full experience and not just a sensory one, we need to get involved, and we need to move, and we need to get outdoors. We need to find ways and means to be in these outdoor spaces.

The Outdoors - Your Landscape

What Is The Landscape?

Wikipedia defines the landscape as ”The visible features of an area of land, its landforms, and how they integrate with natural or human-made features, often considered in terms of their aesthetic appeal.”

impressive colorful backyard landscape with a bunch of landscape plants and cozy outdoor patio area

The definition goes on to explain the elements that make up this magnificent part of our world: “A landscape includes the physical elements of geophysically defined landforms such as mountains, hills, water bodies such as rivers, lakes, ponds, and the sea, living elements of land cover including indigenous vegetation, human elements including different forms of land use, buildings, and structures, and transitory elements such as lighting and weather conditions. Combining both their physical origins and the cultural overlay of human presence, often created over millennia, landscapes reflect a living synthesis of people and place that is vital to local and national identity.”

Hm…“ A living synthesis of people and place that is vital to local and national identity.” Sounds pretty important to me. So you mean that place outside, that place where for thousands of years our ancestors existed along with us, are really parts to fill a whole? Yep, that's the place.

The Benefits of Spending Time In Nature

grandmother spending time outside reaping the benefits of gardening while spending time with her granddaughter

Now more than ever, we need to spend some time outside. For so many reasons, from physical health and emotional well-being to restoring the spiritual kinship we once had with nature and the landscape.

In a recent popular Netflix documentary series, Live To 100: Secrets of the Blue Zones, American National Geographic Fellow and New York Times-bestselling author Dan Buettner explores the science and lifestyles behind longevity. In his travels and research were major findings revolving around the idea of gardening.

“The world's longest-lived people live in environments that nudge them into more movement. They don't use power tools; they do their own yard work, they grow a garden,” Buettner said.

In an interview with Zoe Nutrition, he dives further into this idea and speculates why many long-lived people grow a garden. “And it might be because that its low intensity physical activity. It’s a nudge,” Buettner said. “When you have a garden, and you’ve planted something that you can’t wait to eat, it gives you an incentive to go out every day and weed and water and harvest.”

Getting Reacquainted With Our Friend: Nature

We need to get out there and reacquaint ourselves with the trees of the forest and those on our street, the wildflowers in the meadow, and the herbs in our yard. Breathe in the fresh pine scent on a warm summer day and stroll through the meadow as wafts of wildflower fragrance swirling on the breeze.

group of people smiling enjoying drinks outside in nature on a sunny afternoon

Go and be still in an old-growth forest midwinter and experience the cathedral effect and its quiet serenity as swaying branches arch gently towards the heavens as witnessed from that quiet space you occupy below.

Get out there. Your old friend Mother Nature and her landscape awaits

Don Stelfox