Exploring Our Deep Connection to Nature During a Time of Quarantine

During this quarantine, I find solace in nature. Taking daily walks while keeping a safe distance from others or simply sitting in my hammock on a sunny afternoon gives me peace of mind and allows me to escape for a little while from the overwhelming feelings of chaos surrounding me. Some may call it coincidence that by just happening to be outdoors, away from my work and social media, I feel better. However, I know based on the experiences that I have had and the knowledge that I hold, that nature can provide peace, comfort, and stillness to others in a meaningful and impactful way.

Whether you believe it or not, we, as humans, are connected to nature in ways that are inexplicable. Still, here I will try to provide some justification as to why you too may be finding peace and comfort in nature during this time. I hope that I can also encourage those who are feeling lost, lonely, or overwhelmed at this moment to step outside, away from people, and take a moment to breathe in the fresh air, feel the sunshine on their skin, and listen to the wind rustling through the trees. Step outside with me. Let’s connect together.

One of the most promising explanations that I can provide as to why humans are connected to nature relates to the biophilia hypothesis and the theory of evolution. This hypothesis states that humans have an innate and instinctive desire to seek out nature and other living things. The biophilia hypothesis is supported by evidence of human’s instinctive responses to nature and other living organisms, as well as improvements in people’s cognitive functioning and overall health while spending time in the outdoors. *For anyone that wishes to research and read into this further at the end of the blog, I’ve cited the work of Seymour, 2016*. The theory of evolution also plays into the hypothesis. Over the course of millions of years, different human species have evolved. Today, homo sapiens are the only remaining species. However, we know that over the course of the earth’s and human’s history, humans and nature have evolved together. The human species as we know it today would not exist without the natural world. So, whether it be out of attachment or necessity, we, as humans, are connected to nature.

As I step outside into the evening glow, I can’t help but notice feelings of gratitude and reciprocity wash over me. Do you feel it too? As a species, we wouldn’t exist today if it wasn’t for the soil, the water running through the river, the sunshine, the rain, plants, bees, butterflies, or something as simple as the potato. We need the earth in order to survive, and this knowledge is enough for me to feel connected to nature. We will never survive as a human race unless we take care of the earth. Still, I feel as though something deeper connects us to nature beyond evolutionary biology or necessity. If you want to truly be convinced, I would suggest taking the time to read a beautiful book by Robin Wall Kimmerer entitled Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants. In her book, Kimmerer details the study of the natural world through both scientific and Indigenous knowledge. It was through reading Kimmerer’s book that I realized how humans have and continue to stay connected to nature. The simplest answer: reciprocity and gratitude. We, as humans, are called to be connected with the natural world through a relationship of reciprocity and gratitude. You see, we live within a large, complex system of interactions between humans, innumerable other living organisms, and the planet itself. However, humans only play a small part in the complexity of these interactions. Over the last couple hundred years, we have and continue to see rising temperatures in the atmosphere, the extinction of key species, ocean acidification, coral bleaching, and rising water levels. In part, because of human’s impact on the environment. We live within a fragmented system that sees nature as something to dominate and control, rather than living in gratitude and reciprocity.

Still, I feel as though humans want to be a part of something greater than themselves, and this connects us to each other, and to nature. Even amidst actions of dominance, greed, and power, we, as humans, still yearn to feel the sunshine on our skin, or hear the bees buzzing in the garden. How do we reconcile this? Stepping out into the afternoon sun, breathing in the fresh air, and saying thank you is all it takes to create ties back towards connectivity. Reciprocity and gratitude foster connection, love, feelings of peace, calmness, and stillness in the body and mind. If this quarantine can bring our world anything, let it be to remember to slow down, calm the mind and body, and say thank you to the earth for everything that we have been given. This is a connection to nature. This is the start of a different path, away from dominance, greed, and power, and instead, towards love, respect, gratitude, reciprocity, and connection to the earth and all beings.

Here I have tried to provide some justification as to why you too may be finding comfort and peace in nature during this time. Whether it be through the biophilia hypothesis, the theory of evolution, out of necessity or emotional attachment, we, as humans, are connected to nature. The simplest way to calm your mind and foster your own personal connection to nature during this time is to step outside onto your balcony or porch and take a few deep breaths of fresh air. Remember how beautiful it is to just be alive.

Let the sun, the rain, or the clouds wash over you. Say thank you.

For further information on the theories cited in the above piece, you can refer to, Seymour, V. (2016). The Human-Nature Relationship and Its Impact on Health: A Critical Review. Frontiers in Public Health, 4(260)