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The Healing Power of Nature 

"Climb the mountains. Get their glad tidings.
Let the winds and the storms blow their energy into you,
and watch your cares drop off like autumn leaves."

~ John Muir

A self-care activity that has been very healing in my life is spending time in nature. We human beings are connected to nature for a simple reason. We are animals who have been living in the natural world for millions of years, first as hunter-gatherers and then as farmers. Thus, it seems right that we should be intimately connected with nature and feel a part of it.

Can contact with nature relieve depression, anxiety, and stress, and aid in healing? Scientific evidence reveals that nature does indeed heal, even if the contact we have is indirect. For example, Roger Ulrich and his colleagues at Texas A&M University found that people who commuted along scenic roads recovered more quickly from stressful driving conditions than those who saw billboards, buildings, and parking lots. Ulrich also noted something he termed an "inoculation" effect: Drivers who had taken the scenic route responded more calmly to stressful situations later on.

Ulrich also studied patients recovering from gallbladder surgery. The patients who could see trees from their hospital beds needed fewer painkillers and had shorter hospital stays than those who looked out on brick walls.

There exist several ways that you can incorporate the natural world into your life. Hiking in nature (in the woods, on the beach, etc.) is particularly beneficial because it combines the advantage of aerobic exercise with the feelings of awe and reverence that accompany being in the natural world. 

Another way to bring nature into your life is to bring it into your personal space. fill your home or apartment with indoor plants and flowers. Flowers bring us the added benefit of the healing power of beauty. If you have space outdoors, you can get involved in gardening. People report that gardening calms the mind, nurtures the spirit, and is a good form of exercise. Digging in the earth and turning over the soil can help a person to feel more "grounded" and stable.  

During my episode of agitated depression, a friend suggested that I return to my old hobby--vegetable gardening. On the day I planted my garden, I was anxious when I began, but by the time I had sown the last seed, I was decidedly calmer. In addition, I gave the universe a clear message: "I expect to be alive in the fall to reap the harvest." 

Whether it's watching a sunset over the ocean, taking a leisurely walk in your city park, or caring for your favorite house plant, connecting with Mother Earth can bring healing into your life.

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