“I felt my lungs inflate with the onrush of scenery—air, mountains, trees, people. I thought, “This is what it is to be happy.” This is nature’s effect on the human soul as explained by Sylvia Plath in
I find it impossible to capture the beauty of nature in words. However, I have found several reasons for the depth of our human reaction to it. Here they are:
1. When we remove ourselves from society, it is easier to create and access an internal sense of peace.
Most of us spend our daily lives in an endless state of distraction and activity. When we escape to the outdoors, our everyday stresses are hushed for just a moment. Like a mother’s sigh of relief when her toddler goes down for a nap, our brains find a necessary moment of repose in the absence of their usual state of chaos. The background noises are turned off, and we can find peace.
2. We renew our connection to plants, animals, and the earth.
A typical suburban life contains little, if any, interaction with the purity of nature. Most of the plants we see in our daily lives are neatly gardened, and the animals we interact with have been domesticated on our human terms. While this represents a sense of order and safety that is important to our world, it dilutes the power of nature to connect us with our primal selves. Going deep into the forest or high into the mountains can help you to better access your inner wild thing.
3. We find spirituality.
No matter what your religion, nature is sure to deepen your connection with the divine world. Even atheists and agnostics can recognize nature itself as a power beyond our human understanding. It is impossible to spend time in the natural world without experiencing a sense of awe. This effect is both profoundly personal and completely universal, connecting us to one another as human beings as well.
4. We embrace the authentic circle of life.
Death does not need to be such a scary thing. It’s real and it’s inevitable. In nature, death brings about new life. Dying plants enrich the soil for new ones. Animals who have passed away serve as food for ones who are still thriving. In nature, there is rarely grief surrounding this process. There is only acceptance and a continuation of life. D. H. Lawrence once said “I never saw a wild thing sorry for itself. A small bird will drop frozen dead from a bough without ever having felt sorry for itself.” We may not be able to live this way as humans, but we can certainly benefit from the perspective offered by nature when it comes to death.
5. Nature encourages our own sense of authenticity.
Think of the last time you went for a hike. Did you dress for beauty or for comfort? How often did you look in the mirror? Did you try to keep from getting dirty, or did you embrace the mud and the wetness of it all? Spending time outdoors has a way of causing us to shed our outermost layer and reveal a version of ourselves that is just a little bit closer to who we truly are. Nature does not judge you. Nature does not thrust ideas and expectations upon you. It does not notice your age, your race, or your gender. You are simply a human. That is all.