Nature Relatedness

Written by Renmart.

There is something calming and relaxing about the warmth of the sun, the sounds of birds chirping and lying on fresh grass. The blowing of a cool breeze and the rush of cold water soaking my ankles makes me happy. In fact, being outside makes me really happy. In today’s increasingly urbanized and technology driven world people spend less and less time outdoors. In my childhood, my fondest memories were spent outside in the beach and the ocean. As I became more aware of global issues facing our planet my desire to be more sustainable was due in part to my childhood exposure to nature.

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My favorite outdoor activity is paddle boarding. Being out in the water gives me a stronger appreciation for the beauty of nature and I love paddle boarding in Alice Lake! If I never spend time in nature why would I care for it?

I believe as a society trying to tackle global issues such as social justice and sustainability, we must first surround ourselves with our natural world in order to truly appreciate it. As I moved in to the city in my teens I found I was spending more time indoors than I have in my childhood years. The main reasons I take time to go outside is because of the reality of nature deficit disorder and the benefits of a nature relatedness personality. If as a society we cannot find appreciation with the plants and animals that we live with, how then can we tackle these global issues?

Nature deficit disorder is a term describing an individual’s lack of contact with the outdoors. This is relevant in today’s society as studies show more and more children staying indoors using electronic devices they are developing attention disorders, unable to cope with stress and not getting enough physical exercise. As a university student it is easy to disconnect from the outdoors as we spend countless hours at school, work and home studying and using electronic media. What excited me about coming to the SFU Burnaby campus was its location; I grew up close to the outdoors so going to a school in the mountains was really relieving for me as I had green spaces where I could go study, de-stress and just relax.

FYI: SFU Burnaby campus has several great outdoors study areas. For instance the benches around the AQ pond is a peaceful place where you can spot koi fish swimming by. If you have time Burnaby Mountain Park provides a serene study spot especially on a sunny day. There are lots of green spaces to check out on campus!

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The Happiness Lab at Carleton University coins the term “Nature relatedness,” which is a personality trait defining an individual’s feeling of closeness to nature. According to studies done by the Happiness Lab the more nature related an individual is the more the individual will do good things for the environment and take sustainable actions. This personality trait rings true to me so this is why I believe that a connection to our natural world leads to a more sustainable society. Do you take time out of your day to appreciate the trees and animals around you? Studies and many people note that nature has therapeutic and healing effects on people mental health and concentration. Not only does being outdoors make you happy it also:

  • Improves our physical health (increases exercise!) and immunity (the essential oils and phytoncides given off by trees and plants are good for the cells in our immune system)
  • Relaxes and improves our mood and cognitive capabilities
  • Reduces stress, attention deficit disorders, depression and anxiety
  • Boosts self-esteem and mindfulness
  • Fosters positive social interaction among people as the natural environment triggers the emotional centre of the brain responsible for positive emotions

If you lack time or resources you don’t need to go to a forest or hike a mountain to connect with nature. This is one of the biggest misconception about connecting with nature. In fact all you need to do is step outside! Going to local parks, biking around the pavement and even walking out to your back yard to breathe in fresh air are easy ways to be in contact with nature. I myself like to jogging and doing small runs around my city to clear my mind when I feel stressed.

If you are thinking about being more sustainable this year, it starts with us appreciating our environment by stepping out and being exposed to it. If we truly saw the beauty and wonder of our planet then wouldn’t we do all we can to protect it? Although midterms are going on this month and as students we get busy. I encourage all SFU students to get outside, rain or shine! It will make you happier, healthier and more relaxed during this stressful month! Lastly I would like to share a quote from Bioneer Kenny Ausubel that sums up perfectly our interconnection with this planet:

“Taking care of nature means taking care of people-and taking care of people means taking care of nature.”

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