In a recent trip to outback Queensland, myself and my partner went “off the beaten track”. We decided to take a right hand turn, and see where the road would take us. The road was long and windy, sealed and unsealed. Everytime we arrived at a crest, expecting to see a destination, we were met with more long and windy roads. After a while, the road became unsealed, and the long rough drive was enough for my partner to question the wisdom of the going “off the beaten track”. She wanted to turn around and get back to the original itinerary. She became increasingly nervous, worried that we might break down “in the middle of nowhere”, with no phone reception nor help if anything went wrong. I kept reassuring her, explaining that we were fine. The road, although unsealed, was drivable and the road was leading to somewhere. “Whats the harm in a little sponaneous adventure” I said.
After a very long, rough, increasingly nervous drive, we arrived at the most beautiful sight I had seen in a long time. It was a national park, left to be the national park it always was, so it can continue to be. The national park held a seasonal lake proudly boasting home to various water birds, and endangered vegetation.
Immediately, all anxiety and worry was washed away and replaced with awe at the beauty of the natural environment we had found. Any feelings of irritation, hassles, urgency, and distress were immediately forgotten. A sense of peace, purpose, and perspective remained. We spent the time wondering, being, sensing, and remembering.
There is growing evidence that nature connectedness is good for our wellbeing. Nature connectedness has been demonstrated to reduce depression, anxiety, as well as improve healing from physical illness as well as memory and vitality (refer Williams, Barnwell & Stein, 2020). However, a recent paper by Pritchard, Richardson, Sheffield, and McEwan (2020) captured, I believe, what we were experiencing. In this recent paper, Pritchard (2020) reported that nature connectedness also has an impact on our “eudaimonic well-being”, or that well-being related to personal growth and living to ones “true self”.
So, why am I writing this? If you are feeling overwhelmed, lost, or without a sense of purpose, perhaps a visit back to nature, back to a beautiful place in the world, is what you need. If you are lucky enough to live a short drive away from a national park, find some time to visit, find a quiet place, and just “be”. Science has demonstrated that you cannot help but benefit from this.
Pritchard, A., Richardson, M., Sheffield, D., & McDwan, K. (2020). The Relationship Between Nature Connectedness and Eudaimonic Well-being: A Meta-analysis. Journal of Happiness Studies, 21, 1145-1167. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10902-019-00118-6
Williams, T., Barnwell, G., & Stein, D. (2020). A systematic review of randomised controlled trials on the effectiveness of ecotherapy interventions for treating mental disorders. Medrxiv, 1-33. https://doi.org/10.1101/2020.09.25.20201525