Time spent in the natural world has always greatly relaxed and inspired me. Since childhood I have utilized nature as a place to think, write, compose, and ultimately generate a sense of peace within myself, an experience which I have found impossible to replicate among man-made constructions for reasons that I myself can not entirely articulate. Whether I am going to the park after school to complete that day's homework, playing guitar on my front porch, or hiking through mountains with my family, I find that in nature I am more productive, relaxed, and simply much happier. But why?
As our societies increasingly become contained within large cities I have found myself asking the question, “Is there something that human beings lose as a result of disconnecting from the natural world?” I know that I myself feel much happier and calmer when in nature, however is that feeling something which is universally true of the human experience? Is there a part of each of us which longs to be closer to the nature around us?
From research I have done it seems that exposure to nature can have many psychological benefits for human beings, especially in consideration to the level of stress which is experienced in the modern world. For example, a study by the University of Michigan found that students exposed to nature scored 20% higher on memory tests compared to those who were not, many studies have found that nature helps combat a feeling of mental stagnation (known as “mental fatigue”) even if only viewed through photographs, and in the Journal of Psychology Science it was found that nature can greatly inspire the creativity of college students upwards of 50 percent over those not exposed to it. (Business Insider) The reason I share these statistics—and really my entire reason for writing this piece—is to remind people that even as society moves toward creating more infrastructure and many people are found in careers without regular exposure to nature, the natural world can benefit us in ways which will allow us both greater happiness and productivity.
And while the environmentalism vs. the “march of progress” argument is one which is constantly raging as people try to determine the correct balance between urbanization and preservation, I truly don’t believe that they must be polar opposites. As the species with the greatest impact on the global climate we have the ability to create infrastructure in a way which preserves the natural world and all the benefits it brings. Renewable energy, city gardens, public parks—there are many ways in which we can have a technologically advanced, functioning society while keeping the inherent beautiful, relaxing, and healing power of the natural world.