« I would like to focus on the healing powers of nature and her curative effects.
The 16th Century Swiss physician Paracelsus held that healing first comes from nature herself. Experiencing nature’s pleasing sensations allows the prefrontal cortex of the brain to slow down, reducing the source of stress and anxiety. »
Humans have ever avidly harnessed the forces of nature, exploiting her capabilities, even hell-bent in this direction. But they have not been as eager and ready to allow nature in her turn to fully work her wonders in them, well not generally.
Being surrounded by flora and fauna may be passingly or passively pleasing. However, a conscious reconnection is required, nothing short of an immersion and a deep communion. And the rewards gleaned can be on many levels.
Nature poets across the ages have found perennial inspirations from the beauty of rusticity, their bucolic bliss. We can all delight in the natural sights and sounds without waxing lyrical, whether we are in remote wilderness or amid nearby meadows, swards and lush uplands, or even while driving past vistas of trees and shrubberies.
Across times, elaborate gardens and groves have been created, as places of rest, relaxation and aesthetic enjoyment. Some of these have become national and international treasures.
I have for long lived in the vicinity of Royal Bushy Park in England which has given me unalloyed joy for many years, in all seasons, inspiring my very many poems. It has
delicately cultivated areas, as well as untended woodlands. Hampton Court Palace, which is close by, has well-designed gardens, and its annual flower show attracts multitudes of visitors.
I was born and grew up in the idyllic village of Long Mountain, whose rivers and mountains have exercised an indelible impression on me, and early in life awakened my poetic sensibilities. On relocating to a suburb near Curepipe at age nine, new haunts were found, like the Agricultural Experimental Station, as then called, where my father worked, Mare-aux-Vacoas, Mare Longue and Grand Bassin, to which I would habitually and ritually make my way by bike, especially on blue sky mornings.
I would like to focus on the healing powers of nature and her curative effects. The 16th Century Swiss physician Paracelsus held that healing first comes from nature herself. Experiencing nature’s pleasing sensations allows the prefrontal cortex of the brain to slow down, reducing the source of stress and anxiety. A University of Exeter study has shown that those living in green spaces suffered depression to a lesser extent. Lower death rates have also been associated with living closer to nature.
In Finland, remedy in nature is sought for disorders and ailments such as depression and alcoholism. Medical prescriptions for nature therapy to elevate moods, lower blood pressures, reducing bad cholesterol levels, as well as inducing restful sleep, are well-documented.
According to a BBC news bulletin, 6th April 2020, in the face of the coronavirus pandemic, the closing down of parks and green spaces would happen only as a last resort. An earlier BBC news bulletin, 7th May 2018, alluded to a ‘Nature Deficit Disorder’, coined by Richard Louv. Of particular significance is the assertion that parks and green spaces generate health benefits which in economic terms equated to £34 bn, resulting in a saving to the NHS of about £111m annually.
Helen Briggs says, ‘even a flower in a crack in the paving can lift the spirit’. ‘Nature Therapy Ireland’ advocates forest bathing, as ‘listening to the wind in the trees, seeing sunshine filtering through the trees all awaken the senses’. This practice originated in Japan as ‘shirin yoku’ being part of the Japanese preventative healthcare. Another cultural practice in Japan is ‘Hanami’, the appreciation of transient beauty in nature, such cherry
blossoms, celebrated mainly as family events.
The Journal of Positive Psychology (2018) suggests that spending 5 minutes outdoors can lift the mood. Urbanisation is an ineluctably growing demographic reality. According to a study by PNAS (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America), more than 70 % of people lived in urban areas in 2015 and this has been a continuing trend. Unfortunately, urban living has also been linked to psychological and physiological pathologies. But the rural/urban dichotomy need not preclude creative ways of introducing nature into urban settings, as Singapore’s ‘City in a Garden’ exemplifies, incorporating invigorating greenery into the built environment.
The healing forest concept has taken deep root in South Korea, which has been at the forefront of medicalising nature, aimed at alleviating stress, mitigating digital addiction and other pressures of life in a highly competitive and work-centred society. Some 85% of South Koreans are urban dwellers.
From the aforesaid, there are clear implications for town planning and urban living, and city-based workplaces, to ensure the healing and restorative benefits of nature are not entirely lost.
Governments and relevant authorities must take the lead, as enablers and facilitators in the preservation of nature and natural surroundings, and even promote rewilding.
Besides, forests and other green spaces are not there just for picking wild fruits, for alfresco fun and escapades, enjoyable as they are. They have a more fundamental, life-changing purpose to serve.