“I go to nature to be soothed and healed, and to have my senses put in order.”—John Burroughs
When Linda* graduated, she felt ready to take on the world. Eagerly she sent out her résumé and applied for work at various business locations. But the days, weeks, and months passed without a glimmer of a job possibility. She lost confidence in herself. This was not how she envisioned her life and her career. She began to show signs of depression, demonstrated by frequent bouts of sadness, loss of interest in spending time with family and friends, and isolating herself more and more.
Out of deep concern, Linda’s parents gifted her with two weeks of wilderness training. She returned a changed person. While being totally immersed in nature for that short time, she found herself able to think more clearly about her priorities and goals in life. She now demonstrated a positive, cheerful attitude regarding her strengths and abilities.
GETTING BACK ON TRACK
At 50 years of age, Jim* was beginning to feel the effects of his lifestyle. Working 60 hours a week, often with no time for breaks or exercise, and usually grabbing a bite of lunch at his desk took a toll on his physical and mental health. He had been putting on weight. He felt chronically tired, and his blood pressure was creeping upward.
Acting on a suggestion from his doctor, Jim organized an exercise program with a group of friends in his community. The goal was to walk through areas of the countryside together on weekends. Experiencing the trails with scenic views of trees and flowers while basking in sunshine and fresh air made a difference. Under the expanse of clouds and blue skies, surrounded by the quiet hum of wildlife, Jim began to feel the stress-reducing and awe-inspiring effects of nature. His group also started jogging and rock climbing.
“The pure air, the glad sunshine, the flowers and trees, the orchards and vineyards, and outdoor exercise amid these surroundings, are health-giving, life-giving.” —The Ministry of Healing, p. 264
It didn’t take long for Jim to notice with amazement how energized he felt. Over time he lost weight, and his blood pressure stabilized. He found himself relaxed and rejuvenated upon returning to work each Monday.
The very beginning of humankind takes place in a garden. The Creator chose and formed for our first parents the best environment for health and happiness. Their home was not decorated with the variety of things we think necessary for comfort and beauty. Rather, lovely flowers, decorative shrubbery, and majestic trees surrounded them. The sweet songs of birds, the pure air, and the invigorating sunshine all fed the senses with life-giving inspiration to body, mind, and soul.
Adam and Eve were given the pleasant task of caring for this amazing garden. In the evening they had time and opportunity for joyful visits with the Creator Himself.
This first couple did not need to rush to work every day, battling heavy traffic, punching a time clock, and sitting at a desk hour after hour. Nor did they have the stress of deadlines, the pressure of meeting home and family financial needs, restless sleep, anxious thoughts, health concerns, and burnout.
GOD’S TREATMENT PLAN
As demonstrated in the stories of Linda and Jim, it appears that the more we engage with nature, the better off we are. In spite of the effects of sin upon our environment, it’s pretty amazing—and certainly a tribute to our Creator God—that nature, as flawed as it has become, still has health-giving, vitality-restoring effects on humanity. Although it is not possible to talk face-to-face with God as did our first parents, our heavenly Father still communicates with His children and ministers to the physical, mental, and emotional needs of humanity through the wonders of nature. Indeed, “Nature is God’s physician.”†
1. Nature is healing. Being in nature, or to a lesser degree just looking at pictures of nature scenes, has a healing, uplifting, and calming effect. Research has shown that postoperative patients did better with pain management and healing if they had “green” views—that is, views of trees, gardens, and sky rather than a cement wall outside the window. Even a bouquet of colorful flowers in the room can brighten the mood and speak hope and cheer.
2. Nature is soothing. Emotional or physical pain often can be softened and soothed by being outdoors relaxing in the sunshine and fresh air.
3. Nature is restoring. Exposure to nature provides us with the “sunshine vitamin,” vitamin D, which supports the immune system and protects against disease. Time spent outdoors, surrounded by pleasant fragrances and the beauty of flowers, trees, and majestic mountains, is also associated with aiding in recovery from depression and cognitive disorders. There is an increased sense of well-being, meaningfulness, and vitality. The more time spent in nature, the more we will be able to focus and think more clearly, solve problems more effectively, find optimism and renewed enthusiasm for life’s demands, and be reminded of our strengths and blessings.
CAN’T GET THERE?
COVID-19 has put a damper on family outings to parks and retreats. Add to that our busy schedules, which often afford no spare time for trips to scenic locations. However, there are some ways we can incorporate more exposure to nature right where we are.
1. Take frequent walks. Besides being good for the heart, muscles, and metabolism rate, just getting outdoors and taking walks in the fresh air and sunshine helps activate those feel-good endorphins.
2. Start nature journaling. For added interest and fun, keep a record of what you have seen and heard in the world of nature. Add pictures, sketches, and mementos of leaves, flowers, feathers, stones, etc.
3. Have a home garden. Plants in the home contribute to purifying the air we breathe while adding color and ambiance. Many find enjoyment in designing and creating their own outdoor garden oasis. Beautiful shrubs and flowers carefully placed make any area inviting, refreshing, and cheering.
4. Work outside. Many business professionals these days work from home. When opportunity, climate, and location are suitable, spend some of those hours working out in the fresh air to inspire the senses and reduce tension.
5. Eat fresh. Eating plant-based foods provided by a wise and caring Creator is one more way to benefit health-wise from our connection with nature. Consuming the rich provisions of proteins, vitamins, and minerals found in fruits, vegetables, grains, and nuts aids our bodies in maintaining an optimal state of functionality while promoting good health and longevity.
Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, found restoration and healing by frequently retiring to the mountains and hillsides with His burdens and exhaustion. There He would commune with the heavenly Father while in nature’s soothing and healing surroundings. How much more do we, weak and sinful mortals, need such healing and renewal. Jesus would return from these hours of prayer and
respite with an aura of peace and renewed freshness of life and power. We too can be healed and strengthened from time spent in God’s presence at His “health retreat”—nature.
“For the beauty of the earth,
For the glory of the skies,
For the love which from our birth
Over and around us lies,
Lord of all, to Thee we raise
This our grateful song of praise.”
—Folliott S. Pierpoint
* Names changed.
† Ellen G. White, The Ministry of Healing, p. 263
The Ministry of Healing, Ellen G. White, Pacific Press Publishing Association, pp. 261-268.