I started a daily gratitude routine a couple of years ago.
You know, when Emma Watson and Oprah Winfrey were raving about it.
If Hermione Granger—the highly accomplished actress-activist-ultra fashionable-UN ambassador superwoman—has time for it then surely, I can carve out five minutes of my day to acknowledge how lucky and privileged I am.
One thing I often wrote about was how grateful I was for nature. When I started my practice, I was living in Canada, regularly spending my weekends summiting the local mountains and camping among old-growth forest and whiskey jacks (if you’ve never heard of these highly intelligent little birds, YouTube them; they’re adorable). The breathtaking beauty of where I lived never escaped me and was a regular topic of conversation between me and my friends. Having such beautiful hikes and untouched wilderness so close to home was truly awesome.
Upon my return to Australia, I was lucky enough to complete a six-day hike in the Tasmanian wilderness just before the world as we knew it shut down and the words “self-isolation” and “social-distancing” became common terminology.
But as I sit here, five weeks (or is it six?) into stage-three restrictions, it has got me thinking about the superficial level of gratitude acknowledgement I was practicing.
I’ve always loved being outside, walking through the trees, spending summers by the water, and hours upon hours in the sun (much to the detriment of my now freckled shoulders). But now that the freedom of choosing which trail I want to tick off my list has been temporarily taken away, I realize just how deeply I need nature.
Don’t get me wrong, I am in no way complaining about my current situation. I have a roof over my head, an ample amount of food in my pantry, and a work-from-home job that I love. I know I am far luckier than so many others in the world right now. But I can’t help but feel completely humbled by this situation, and by mother nature herself.
Rather than regurgitate the notion that this is mother nature sending us a signal of some kind (I mean, she clearly is), I am taking a moment to reflect on the true need us humans have for time in nature.
I find my craving for time outdoors is seeping its way into every cell of my body in a manner I’ve never felt before. Looking back at photos of myself hiking with friends or laughing around a campfire leaves me aching for the joy that only nature can give me. That real and pure feeling I get when I’m outdoors surrounded by trees, lakes, and rivers, taking in all the complex smells and sounds only nature can produce.
Time in nature activates our parasympathetic nervous system, pulling us out of that fight-or-flight mode and sending our body the signal that it’s okay to relax. Quite simply, nature is good for us because we are intrinsically a part of nature. We evolved with nature, and therefore it is deeply embedded in our consciousness and physical bodies.
We’ve been heading down a path of disconnection and convenience for quite some time now, and urbanization isn’t showing any signs of slowing down. And while I appreciate having a world of information at my fingertips as much as the next person, the human-nature connection has been weakening at an almighty pace, and something needed to happen to wake us up.
This global pandemic has compelled me to think of nature and how potent of an elixir my time outdoors is—fulfilling and nourishing me on a much deeper level than I knew. And I am grateful for that.
I think that even those who previously spent little time outdoors are starting to feel this longing, and perhaps they will start to appreciate what time among trees can do for our physical and emotional well-being.
Aside from the tremendous heartache and loss coming out of this time, I see a lot of good emerging. I hope humankind will reaffirm our centuries-old connection with nature when this is over and start to pay her the respect she deserves. After all, our survival depends on it. The rewilding of civilization and the realization that nature does not need us—rather, we need her. Right down to our core.
“Wilderness is not a luxury but necessity of the human spirit.” ~ Edward Abbey