Go Outside, Feel Better, Save the Climate
by Paul Hellweg
We’re experiencing disastrous climatic events because we treat the land – metaphorically speaking – like dirt.
Nature’s ecosystems regulate climate. In turn, the well-being of all nature, ourselves included, is dependent upon the health of the climate. The current level of global climate change is so extreme that climate scientists have issued what they call the final warning.
Work with the sliver of hope. We can combat global climate change by reestablishing our love for and connection to the only home we’ve ever known, Earth. We can start by simply going outside. Being in nature has health benefits for you, and the closer you are to nature, the more inclined you’ll be to protect it.
Please: try it now. You’ll likely be surprised by the invigorating benefits, both for you and the planet. Improving one’s health by simply being in nature is called ecotherapy, and there is a growing field of practitioners. The science behind ecotherapy is new, but there is evidence that being outdoors has significant health benefits, both mental and physical.
Just being around plants and trees has been shown to lower blood pressure and pulse rate, reduce levels of stress hormones, increase levels of immune-boosting white blood cells, and improve sleep. Some therapists believe that in order to get the full benefit of ecotherapy, you need to give something back, such as plant a tree, start a garden, and so on. The beauty of this is that giving back to nature – even a little – will help combat global climate change.
The best way to experience the health benefits of ecotherapy is to find a nice quiet spot in a natural setting where you can be alone with your thoughts. The only hard part will be muting your smartphone, but you can do it. Pay attention to the sights, sounds, and smells of nature.
Acknowledge what you’re sensing. If it’s sunny, appreciate the warmth the sun is giving you. Appreciate the support of the rock or stump or ground you’re sitting on. You might try repeating to yourself over and over, “I have arrived, I am home,” and pay attention to the tension draining from your body. You won’t reach nirvana, but you might very well sense a connection to the Earth, and that’s a spiritual feeling.
You don’t have to go for a wilderness outing; simply spending time in a city park or backyard can achieve health benefits. And if you don’t have an opportunity to find solitude in a natural setting, you can also get some benefits of ecotherapy inside.
Look around your home. You’ve likely brought nature into your household in one form or another – perhaps a houseplant, pet, scenic painting, natural wood furniture, calendar with nature pictures, fire in the form of candles or fireplace, and so on. If you have brought such natural objects into your house, pause and notice them for a moment.
It may even inspire you to join a local environmental group, buy a bicycle for some of your transportation needs, start using only reusable bags when you shop, donate to a climate defense organization, testify at local public hearings on behalf of carbon reduction policies, or add insulation to your home, as examples of what we can all do once we see how much we care for nature.
We know what needs to be done to combat climate change, but too many of us lack the motivation to make lifestyle adjustments for the good of humanity and the planet.
If you are willing and able to take the above simple and healing steps, you will come to a deeper understanding of your connection to everything in the world around you. Then giving something back to nature will suddenly seem important. What could be better than taking steps to combat climate change? If enough of us contribute a little, the effect will be large, and together we can make the world a better place for everyone.
We need to do it now, while we still can.
Paul Hellweg is a freelance writer and poet. Samples of his writing can be seen at www.PaulHellweg.com and www.VietnamWarPoetry.com
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