"Adopt the pace of nature. Her secret is patience."
-Ralph Waldo Emerson
In today's hectic, modern world, spending time out of doors is an activity.
Unlike past centuries, where most people spent most of their time outside, today the tables are entirely flipped. As humans we are working increasingly longer hours, living more and more in cities, and spending yet growing amounts of our shrinking leasure in front of a screen. This life style has lead us to a strange place where the earth, our habitat, has been blocked out so much that to enter it for any period of time is considered an excursion or even a hobby. From this place, we have discovered an incredible truth; nature is emphatically good for us.
"I took a walk in the woods and came out taller than the trees."
-Henry David Thoreau
Not just a little good. Over the last few years, study after study has shown that nature (as in fresh air, dirt, and green things) helps in a staggering amount of health problems. One massive study involving 20 countries and 290 million people, found that spending some time in nature on a regular basis "reduces the risk of type II diabetes, cardiovascular disease, premature death, and preterm birth, and increases sleep duration." It also said that people living closer to nature had reduced diastolic blood pressure, heart rate and stress.
"We often reach for medication when we're unwell but exposure to health-promoting environments is increasingly recognised as both preventing and helping treat disease."
-Professor Andy Jones
All these health benefits increase as the exposure to nature increases. Dozens, if not hundreds of studies, show us that people who spend more time in nature are visibly less stressful, violent, suicidal, or criminal, have lower blood pressure, are more focused, self positive, calm, and creative, sleep better, maintain a better weight, balance better, are stronger, and have stronger immunity, bones, and blood cells.
These benefits are so great that they are detectable from something as simple as a picture. A study showed that having a house plant or pictures of nature in your living space could visibly lower stress and stress induced health problems. One doctor observed in a now famous study that surgery patients with a window view of trees as opposed to another building tolerated pain better, had fewer negative effects, and spent less time in the hospital.
Every year more things are added to the growing list of benefits and nature deprivation is increasingly linked to massive societal problems.
"I felt my lungs inflate with the onrush of scenery—air, mountains, trees, people. I thought, 'This is what it is to be happy.'" -Sylvia Plath
These studies are surprising to many people, but perhaps they shouldn't be. It's true, from a naturalistic (evolutionary) standpoint, it makes little sense. According to this worldview humans came into a hostile, survivalistic, dog-eat-dog environment. We eventually dominated it because of our skill at shaping the world around us to better allow our survival. It's difficult to comprehend under this theory the idea that we have overcrafted our world. That to have the greatest chance of living we need to spend time back in the barily survivable place we have spend millenia separating ourselves from. However, from a Christian worldview, this is simply a scientific conformation of a biblical truth. We were made, not just to survive, but to thrive. God made this world for us to work, live, and breath in. He made it for us. He said it is good. Why would we be surprised that he was right?
"And God saw all that he had made, and it was very good."