At the beginning of the year we (my father, brother, husband and I) decided that we were going to run the Knysna Marathon. Since then I’ve done many long runs as part of my training.
For our first longer training session my husband and I went for a run in the Helderberg Nature Reserve, which is very close to where we live in South Africa. The farther we jogged up the mountain the quieter the chatter in my mind became. Until I discovered that I was completely in the now. I was not planning my future, what we were going to eat (or not eat) or thinking about the past. It was just me and nature. I could feel the sun on my shoulders, hear my heart beat and smell the fynbos.
I’m not sure if you’ve ever felt it, but whenever I’m in the mountains I get a feeling of being connected. Not only connected with myself but with nature as well.
We’ve been living in Boston for a few months. As a result I’ve discovered new training routes. My favorite one is to run to the Fresh Pond in Cambridge. It is a beautiful pond surrounded with trees. What I find interesting is that I experience the same emotion of ‘connectedness’ running around the pond than I had when I ran up the mountain in South Africa.
The mountain gives me a feeling of strength, stability and patience. I guess it’s because the mountain has always been there. It has stood the test of time. It has been burned by the sun and washed by rain, but keeps on standing tall. The pond instead gives me a feeling of serenity and softness. It’s as if the flow of the water connects with the rhythm of my heart. I imagine the branches of the trees folding around me and rocking me like a mother rocks her baby. It feels like home…
This made me wonder what it is about nature that awakens these emotions in me. So, I did a bit of research on the topic. Not much to my surprise a term that defines my experience already exists. The construct ‘nature connectedness’ refers to the integration we feel with nature or our emotional connection towards nature. The research further indicates that being connected with nature can improve our well-being and happiness. However, it is estimated that we are becoming more dis-connected from nature. Some studies found that we spend on average only 10% of our time in nature.
I want to challenge you today to spend some time in nature. Like Calvin Coolidge said:
There is new life in the soil for every man. There is healing in the trees for tired minds and for our overburdened spirits, there is strength in the hills, if only we will lift up our eyes. Remember that nature is your great restorer.
Go out and connect with nature!