The coronavirus crisis has affected our lives in many ways. One of them has been overwhelmingly positive in that it has forced us to rethink how we live.
Many people, after an enforced stay at home for many weeks, have regained an understanding of how important being in touch with nature is. We have craved green spaces, and our daily walks, urban parks, allotments and suburban gardens have been our ‘sanity’.
There’s an increasing body of science behind why we feel better when in touch with nature. From the physicality of getting fresh air and exercise outdoors, to the microbes that improve our consitution when we handle soil, to the quiet contemplation that being outdoors enables, listening to birdsong and the wind rustling the leaves in the trees.
The Japanese in particular have long been attuned with the healing power of nature, and have recently introduced us Westerners to concepts such as Shinrin Yoku or ‘Forest Bathing, the idea that being calm amongst the trees, observing nature around you whilst breathing deeptly can help people to de-stress and improve wellbeing generally.
My friend and co-alumnus of London College of Garden Design has put together a blog around the mental health benefits of gardens, discussing in particular his award winning design ‘Calm in Chaos’ for the RHS Young Designer of the Year competition, which is well worth reading. In it he explains how various aspects of his design respond to human needs and have positive mental health impacts. Happily the garden has since been relocated to Addenbrookes Hospital in Cambridge, where it is available for patients and visitors to regain a sense of balance and nature, aiding the healing process.
If there is one longstanding benefit we are to take from this ongoing crisis, I sincerely hope it is our appreciation for nature, and the importance of regular immersion in green spaces. As humans, we have a deep and primal need to commune with nature. Let’s listen to that call and make sure there’s a part for nature to play in our everyday lives, through our gardens, playspaces, town squares and landscapes.