Editor's note: Our long-time writer, Layla Abdullah-Poulos, is taking on different activities in a year-long journey of self awareness, self empowerment and healing, which she is documenting throughout 2023 in a four-part series at The Haute Take. This, part three, is the summer cycle of Layla’s journey and focuses on the healing power of nature. Click here to read part one from the winter cycle. Click here to read part two from the spring cycle. We hope it inspires you to embark on your own healing journey.
In the modern world, we often find ourselves immersed in a fast-paced and technology-driven environment, leading to stress, anxiety, and disconnection from our inner selves. Amid the bustling cities and busy lives, the natural world is a sanctuary that profoundly benefits our mental health and spiritual well-being. Scientific research and ancient wisdom both attest to the therapeutic power of nature, highlighting its ability to heal and nurture the human psyche.
Immersing myself in nature in a variety of ways has been instrumental in my healing journey this year, helping my mental health to grow stronger and connect with my children. Let’s explore nine ways in which nature can positively impact our mental health and spiritual healing.
1. Remembering Allah (S) by immersing ourselves in nature.
Nature helps me remember Allah (S) in many ways. One can’t help but be in awe of Allah’s (S) love and mercy when you take in all the amazing things you bear witness to in nature. Whether working in my garden or yard or taking a walk at the local preserve on the beach, when I see the beauty of the world around me, it reminds me of the power and creativity of Allah (S). The intricate design of a flower, the vastness of the ocean, and the majesty of a mountain all point to the existence of a higher power.
Nature also helps me to connect with Allah (S) on a spiritual level. I feel a sense of peace and tranquility when I am in nature. I am reminded that Allah (S) is always with me and is the source of all my strength and support.
Layla enjoying the sunshine!
Nature helps me to appreciate the blessings that Allah has bestowed upon me. Seeing the beauty of the world around me reminds me of how fortunate I am to be alive. I am also reminded of the responsibility to care for the environment and be a good steward of Allah's (S) creation.
2. Stress reduction and relaxation.
The mere act of spending time in nature can induce a state of tranquility, easing the mind and reducing stress levels. The natural environment, with its calming sounds, soothing scents and gentle breezes, triggers a relaxation response in my body. This, in turn, lowers the production of stress hormones like cortisol, helping me achieve a state of calm and mental clarity. Often when we are walking outdoors, we may be plugged into podcasts, music or maybe a book through your headphones. But consider listening to nature and the sounds all around you.
3. Boosting mood and happiness.
Nature has the remarkable ability to elevate my mood and foster feelings of happiness. Exposure to natural landscapes stimulates the release of serotonin, the "happy hormone
," closely linked to positive emotions and a sense of well-being. People who regularly engage with nature often report a more positive outlook on life and greater overall happiness.
4. Mindfulness and present moment awareness.
I naturally become more attuned to the present moment when surrounded by nature. Nature has a grounding effect, encouraging mindfulness as I observe the intricate details of my environment. Being mindful and fully present can alleviate anxiety, anchoring my thoughts. When I focus on the present, I can let go of worries about the future or past regrets. And, focusing on the present moment can help me feel more grounded and in control of my emotions.
5. Connection and interconnectedness.
Image source: Pexels
Nature reminds me of my connection to all living beings and the broader universe. The awe-inspiring beauty of nature evokes a profound sense of wonder and spirituality. Experiencing this interconnectedness provides me solace, especially during challenging times, and fosters a deeper understanding of my place in the world.
6. Physical health benefits.
In addition to mental well-being, spending time in nature offers various physical health benefits. Outdoor activities encourage exercise and help improve cardiovascular health, strengthen muscles, and boost the immune system. Engaging in outdoor physical activities releases endorphins, enhancing my mood and reducing stress.
Spending time in nature has been shown to have several benefits for the vagus nerve
. This cranial nerve plays a role in many critical bodily functions, including heart rate, digestion and immune response and mood.
found that people who spent time in nature had a lower resting heart rate and blood pressure than those who did not. Another study
found that people who spent time in nature had lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol.
Spending time in nature helps improve my anxiety, depression and OCD, which are all mood disorders I struggle with daily. When I feel a spike in my anxiety or that obsessive thought switch clicks on, taking a walk or bringing the kids to the park helps me regain emotional stability.
7, Healing immersion in green spaces.
Research has shown that "green spaces
" – parks, forests and gardens – have a restorative effect on the mind. These natural settings provide an escape from urban chaos and allow us to reconnect with our inner selves. Access to green spaces has been associated with reduced symptoms of anxiety, depression and attention disorders.
I am fortunate to live in an area with several parks, preserves, beaches, campsites and farms. I also have a healthy amount of indoor plants. Okay, some of my friends may say I’m an obsessive plant parent, but that’s not the point.
If you live in an urban area, you may have to do some planning to create
green spaces to enjoy. But trust me, it’s worth it, whether you give attention to some potted plants in your living space or locate a park that you can visit on the regular.
8. Spiritual renewal.
Time spent in the natural world facilitates introspection, meditation and a deeper understanding of my beliefs and purpose in life. The serenity of nature often serves as a canvas for my self-discovery and spiritual renewal.
9. Cultivating resilience and coping skills.
Nature offers lessons in resilience. Observing how plants and animals adapt to their environments can inspire us to develop our resilience and coping skills. As we encounter challenges in the natural world, we learn valuable lessons about patience, acceptance and the impermanence of life.
Here are some tips for getting the most out of your time in nature:
- Choose a natural setting that you enjoy, such as a park, forest or beach.
- Spend at least 30 minutes in nature each day.
- Pay attention to your surroundings and appreciate the beauty of nature.
- Avoid using electronic devices while you're in nature. This is a big one.
- If you can, get your hands dirty by gardening, hiking or swimming.
Nature is a balm for the mind, body and soul. Its healing power extends to our mental health and spiritual well-being, providing a sanctuary to unwind, find peace, and rediscover ourselves. Whether it's a stroll in the park, a hike through the woods, or simply sitting by the ocean, immersing ourselves in nature offers a path to better mental health, a heightened sense of spirituality, and a greater appreciation for the beauty of life.
Remember to welcome nature's therapeutic embrace and its profound ability to heal us from within. When I say it has been instrumental in my healing journey, I really mean it. Shukar Alhamdulillah.