Nature and Depression

What is depression?

I’m not looking for the clinical definition–I’m looking for an honest experiential explanation for what’s going on when a human being experiences what we now call “depression.” What is it? Where does it come from? And how to get rid of it?

The mission of this site is to help people looking for answers about what depression is, where it comes from and how to cure it naturally. I’m not saying this approach will work for everyone–but it worked for me. And it has worked for many others, I know.

One of the things I notice really impacts how I’m feeling is the degree to which I’ve been able to spend time outside in the sun, under the stars breathing fresh air.

Depression is all about constriction, collapse, tightness. Those are all qualities that go extremely well with being cooped up inside cut off from Nature.

Disconnection from Nature is definitely a Root of Depression. Not necessarily in all cases, but most definitely in many.

Natural Rejuvenation

When you hike a trail through the mountains, a sense of timelessness pervades the air. That mountain has been looming in place since long before humans built their cities and networks.

Contrast the frenetic pace of a city street with a forest trail–Nature’s busyness is simultaneously peaceful.

The majority of our human struggles don’t matter quite so much in the grand scheme of things. We are, after all, quite small in comparison with the entire Universe.

Nature can help us put things in their proper perspective. From there, we can calm down, sit on the ground and receive much-needed support from the Earth below.

As I’ve written elsewhere, depression is constriction and tightness. The answer is to learn how to relax physically as well as mentally and emotionally.

Nature helps us relax–it puts us back in our proper perspective within the grand scheme of things. It helps us remember who we are and why we’re here.

Healing Our Relationship with Nature

Disconnection from Nature has both individual and societal origins.

Your individual history may never have involved spending much time outside. Maybe you were raised in the big city and never got to visit the country. That sort of individual background can change easily–just prioritize getting out in nature in whatever way you can. Start small and build from there.

However, there’s a larger story behind how each of us relates to Nature. That story has to do with societal attitudes toward Nature that characterize the Western mindset.

For hundreds of years now, a cultural attitude has taken over in which Nature is an object to be used, manipulated and transformed into productive materials. The use value of a forest relates only to how tree trunks can be converted into lumber for building houses, furniture and other goods. Instead of appreciating the forest for the way it supports and bolsters the water table, provides shelter for all manner of living things as well as standing for beauty and inspiration for the human beings who walk within it, our culture has reduced the forest to a flat source of raw materials.

We can each heal this disconnected relationship with Nature, which manifests in many as a depression of unknown origin. It is sad to be disconnected from the very systems that provide us with life in the first place–if you didn’t have clean air to breathe, clean water to drink and unpolluted food to consume, you could not live. You are a child of Nature.

No, You Don’t Have to Become a Hippie

I’m not saying you have to move back to the land, discard modern conveniences and embrace a primitive way of life in order to resolve this issue of disconnection from Nature.

You can live where you live and continue doing what you do while placing greater emphasis on spending more time getting out in Nature.

When you’re suffering through a particularly acute bout of depression, go outside and lay on the Earth.

If your thoughts start spiraling without stop, you can get out under the wide open sky and air out your brain and your body at the same time.

Profound Cultural Blindness to the Relationship Between Nature and Humanity

I spent a challenging weekend in the suicide ward of a hospital a little over a decade ago.

One of the most glaring aspects of that experience was the fact that we were inside all the time except for intermittent ten minute breaks during which the patients were allowed to walk downstairs to a courtyard for a smoke break.

The courtyard was down in the center of the hospital complex surrounded on all sides by the towering wings of the hospital. There weren’t even any trees in the courtyard–it was all tiny bushes and lots of concrete.

Looking up, the little square of sky beyond the hospital walls up above me was the only connection to Nature available. And meanwhile, the patients were all smoking filling the air with acrid smoke.

It’s not an accident that we were depressed! And it’s not likely that we were going to be healed with that kind of consciousness about the relationship between nature and sanity fueling the very structure of the psychiatric wing of that hospital.

Just Get Outside

Deepening your connection to Nature doesn’t have to be complicated.

Just get outside.

Go for a walk. Find a park and lay underneath a tree. If you’re stuck in a city, then get out on the weekend and spend several hours sitting and being still surrounded by the sounds of the forest.

We’re too consumed by our devices right now. We’re missing that vital connection with Nature.

If you’re depressed, then you can’t afford to bombard your psyche with electronic stimuli while ignoring the importance of spending plenty of time out in Nature. Take care of yourself and notice how you feel right after you’ve gone for a walk with no real agenda other than to be and experience the timelessness of the Nature that surrounds and supports us.

One Response to Nature and Depression
  1. Valerie
    April 2, 2012 | 12:42 am

    I can’t tell you how much I agree with this!!!!!!!
    Thank you so much for your website and all the care that you pour into it! Spending the last hour reading every word you’ve posted has given me something i couldn’t even give myself — hope. I’m actually really excited to try some of the things you talk about and see what happens! Thanks again!
    God bless!

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