Dr. Mukesh Kwatra founder of Smiling Tree
In the prevailing situation of Pandemic most are suffering from psychological distress with increased levels of anxiety, stress, depression etc. It has deeply impacted the mental health of people which also suggests a troubled future. But it’s also true that humans’ ability to overcome adversity is often underestimated especially for the overwhelming majority who love to be with nature. This is not to suggest that the impact of Covid-19 on mental health isn’t real, nor that it won’t be long-lasting in some cases. It is real, and it will linger for many. Nevertheless, it’s also important to underline that it’s healthily therapeutic for people who spend time amidst nature.
There is a Japanese practice of nature therapy – “forest bathing”. Forest bathing, or shinrin-yoku, is simply spending time outdoors under the canopy of trees. In Japanese, “shinrin” means forest and “yoku” means bath, or immersing oneself in the forest and soaking in the atmosphere through the senses. In one study, Yoshifumi Miyazaki, a nature-therapy expert, found that people who spent 40 minutes walking in a forest had lower levels of stress hormones. He claimed, “Spending time in the forest induces a state of physiologic relaxation.”
Another researcher, Dr. Qing Li, found that trees and plants emit aromatic compounds called phytoncides that, when inhaled, can spur healthy biological changes in a manner similar to aromatherapy, which has also been studied for its therapeutic benefits. Besides various recent studies have also linked nature to symptom relief for health issues like heart disease, depression, cancer, anxiety and attention disorders.
Love for nature is something that is deeply inherent in all of us. We, as humans, are part of the ecosystem and nature as much as plants & animals are. No matter how many concrete jungles we create in cities, we are likely to get “naturally” happy in the surroundings of plants and trees.
Exposure to nature, or even just merely observing it, helps us in reducing anger, anxiety and stress. The impact of our brush with nature is not only emotional but physical and neurological as well. The experts call our innate tendency to connect to plants as Biophilia, while I call it our ‘unconditional love for nature’ in my layman’s lexicon. Nature helps us to connect with each other: When we see the beautiful natural scenery, sense of empathy and love lits up in our brain, but when we see only walls or buildings around as is during the lockdowns enforced, we are bound to be tensed up with fear and anxiety.
Isolated in lockdown, idleness haunts most of us, more so when one gets to know that so many are in such a distraught situation due to the second wave of Covid-19. The misery and the suffering, even if with others, is bound to effect one’s mental health. Here, plants at house are the healing companions. Lonely and distressed thoughts are banished in their company.
Pandemic hit us hard and the main psychological impact to date is elevated rates of stress or anxiety. Nature has plenty of way to reduce our stress and anxiety for this we need to spend some time with plants just talk to them, occasionally touching their leaves. The relationship is slowly blossoming to an effect that I often share my life with them, confiding in them with things which haven’t discussed with anyone, talking to them about your feelings about the prevailing situation during this Pandemic. And truly, once you offload these thoughts to them, you feel light as a feather. Nature is indeed the best therapist in the World.
So whenever feasible, be amidst nature. Count the birds, listen to the breeze, spot the leaves of the trees, beautiful flowers, or just take a moment to inhale the fresh air in the muted atmosphere. Spend more time looking at flowers that blossom and the butterflies that drink their nectar Reconnect with the clouds as kids do, make shapes from them. It can instantly put life into perspective.
Even if we can’t get outside, try to bring the outside in. Draw up a chair by a window and observe nature, feel the breeze. Close your eyes and try to listen to some relaxing nature sounds like soothing birds singing, natural sound of water.