Humans are drawn to nature and comforted by natural settings. If you've ever found yourself staring longingly at a picture of a beach or been transfixed by a scene of the forest, it's an example of your inner spirit seeking to align itself with the core of its nature. We evolved as part of this planet – just as much connected to Earth as the flowers, plants and trees – and our body, mind and spirit are happiest when they remain attuned to more natural settings.
“Time in green space is essential to children's mental and physical health,” notes psychologist Susan Linn. (Hellmich, 2012) A growing body of research is showing that experiences with nature are an important component of optimal physical and mental health. Deborah Franklin writes that “just three to five minutes spent looking at views dominated by trees, flowers or water can begin to reduce anger, anxiety and pain to induce relaxation, according to various studies of healthy people that measured physiological changes in blood pressure, muscle tension, or heart and brain electrical activity.” (Franklin, 2012, p. 24)
Stepping outside our walled domains and concrete jungles to enjoy time in more natural settings can boost both body and spirit, especially when someone is in the midst of coping with life’s struggles. Nature not only provides a boost in overall welfare that is conducive towards healing, but it's filled with lessons about adversity as well. Spending time amidst nature can help us put our human problems in perspective, and reminds us that life itself is a struggle for survival.
This chapter is filled with ways to use nature as a tool for healing. It covers the therapeutic value of nature and discusses ways we can harness this power in everyday life, as well as projects you can do with the kids that utilize nature as a tool to teach valuable lessons about life and adversity. Even if you can't get away to the countryside, there are ways to utilize the healing power of nature within the confines of a vacant city field or urban park. Adults and children alike should find these therapeutic techniques extremely helpful for whatever issues they are dealing with.
Next section: The Healing Power of nature: Mental health benefits