A friend just sent me an undated article from MIND reporting on research about the impact of being in nature on our sense of well being. As a writer who has long been cooped up inside, I savor my time by the lake or ocean or just looking at trees in my neighborhood; now I understand more about why the natural world is essential for my health.
In one study, 95% of those studied said that spending time outdoor improved their mood. Presumably, this did not include dreary, rainy days. Those who were stressed, anxious or depressed felt more calm and balanced. No surprise, really, yet it is so easy for us to be tied to our technology that we forget to look beyond our narrow horizon.
Another study said that time spent in nature, or viewing nature scenes, increases our ability to pay attention. To observe the sky or water or a forest of trees is a respite from our over-active minds and refreshes us for new tasks.
I recall a quote from the writer Colette, a bit of advice to a young man: Look closely at what pleases you. Observation and the complete focus on the beauty of the natural world takes us out of ourselves and at the same time feeds the soul, which needs beauty. This type of attention is the basis of art and of a basic kind of spirituality: being fully present to the now.
Even if we live in drab cities, it is not hard to find natural beauty somewhere, perhaps in a tree, whose very stillness can, upon lengthy observation, be calming.
All of this seems especially important for writers, who often begin with observation but too often stay in their heads: nature beckons!