Health Benefits of Nature
Research shows that spending time in and near nature has a significant positive impact on a person’s quality of life. Business Insider actually lists eleven ways nature does this.
- Improved memory
- Improved mental energy
- Stress relief
- Better vision
- Reduced inflammation
- Improved concentration
- Sharper thinking & creativity
- Anti-cancer possibility
- Immunity boost
- Better mental health
- Less chance of dying early
Sitting on my deck under a shade tree. Going for a walk or jog at least once daily. Regular bike rides. Kayaking. Hiking. Just some of the ways I’ve learned the truth behind what this research shows.
Our connection with nature goes beyond the health benefits it brings though. In fact, nature can actually teach us some valuable ways to amplify the above benefits. It can also show us how to use them to restore us from a damaged state.
One of those ways is through the concept of ecological restoration. If you visit public parks or nature centers, you’ve likely come across this term on a sign or in a brochure at some point. Ecological restoration is…
“The practice of renewing and restoring degraded, damaged or destroyed ecosystems and habitats in the environment by active human intervention and action.” (Ecological Restoration Alliance)
The goal of ecological restoration is to revive the native habitat and its ecological functioning. Examples include:
- Removing or controlling non-native plants & wildlife
- Erosion control measures
- Reintroduce or reinforce native species
- Controlled fires to promote mature growth, limit insect growth & prevent disease
Ecological restoration is “intentional activity that initiates or accelerates recovery.” The purpose is to restore the ecosystem to what it was before it was disturbed or to an improved state from what it was previously.
An ecosystem usually needs restoration when humans have in some way negatively altered it. Those ways include littering, pollution and even destruction in some way.
I realized that I often feel like I need the type of restoration described here. I sometimes feel like I’ve been destroyed or damaged by my culture and just life in general enough that I need to take deliberate steps to stop the damage and discover and/or create a restored state.
Essentially, ecological restoration boils down to removing negative elements and influences and placing in positive ones. Sometimes, that includes using what at first seems detrimental — fires for instance — to clean out those bad elements to allow the good ones room to flourish.
Is that really any different from what God wants to do for us?
Everyone needs spiritual restoration to some degree from time to time. From outright moral failure to neglecting time with God because of busyness to an unexplainable dry season, we all need some sort of intentional activity to aid in our continual restoration.
Fortunately, Scripture contains a slew of wisdom for the purpose of our spiritual restoration. And since we can’t go into detail on all of what it offers here — it is living and active after all (Hebrews 4:12) — we’ll focus on a few passages that emphasize nature’s overall role in the process.
“On the glorious splendor of your majesty, and on your wondrous works, I will meditate.” (Psalm 145:5)
“But ask the animals, and they will teach you, or the birds in the sky, and they will tell you; or speak to the earth, and it will teach you, or let the fish in the sea inform you. Which of all of these does not know that the hand of the Lord has done this? In his hand is the life of every creature and the breath of all mankind.” (Job 12:7-10)
“Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your Heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?” (Matthew 6:26)
Nature tells us about God. It lets us know who He is and what He’s capable of doing based on what He’s already done. And this knowledge lies at the heart of any type of restoration we need.
Research on the health benefits of nature really just supports what Scripture already tells us. Nature, God’s creation, connects us with him in ways that give our lives vitality like nothing else can. It restores like nothing else can. We only need to expose ourselves to it.
“I love to think of nature as an unlimited broadcasting station, through which God speaks to us every hour, if we will only tune in.” (George Washington Carver)