Last week we looked at how relaxation can help us find inspiration. This week we will be taking that a little further by going for a nice long walk in the woods, or perhaps a stroll down by the beach? That’s right, we will be looking at how spending time in nature can inspire us. Let’s jump right in with the three main ways nature can offer us inspiration:
- By helping us relax
“Nature restores mental functioning in the same way that food and water restore our bodies.” – Adam Alter
Spending time outdoors has been linked to both mental and physical health benefits, it can be so beneficial to the brain that it significantly alters our moods towards more relaxed and positive states. Nature helps us recover from stress and can actually reduce depression, where exposure to shopping centres and other high stimulus human environments have been linked to increase.
As I discussed last week, relaxation is vital to quieting the mind and allowing us to be more aware of our emotions and senses, essential to creativity, add to this that our consciousness is more able to access introspective and intuitive states in response to natural stimuli because of the ‘soft-fascination’ effect – nature is less demanding of our attention because it is easier for our brains to process – and you know that nature is the place to be to relax most effectively and easily. By doing so we restore higher analytical functioning, gaining access to the parts of our brain that perform best on tasks requiring insight, problem solving, and creative reasoning.
- By its beauty and its terror
“To experience sublime natural beauty is to confront the total inadequacy of language to describe what you see. Words cannot convey the scale of a view that is so stunning it is felt.” – Eleanor Catton
Quite apart from its effects on our mental functioning, nature has a glorious capacity to affect our senses, perhaps its most obviously inspiring quality is its beauty. But the beauty of nature is a particular and fearsome beauty, referred to by many philosophers as sublime. It is a beauty that is terrifying in its ability to humble us with our own fragility, transience and insignificance in comparison – how tiny we feel in its vastness, how fearful in the presence of its power. Experiencing such powerful emotions is essential to the personal growth that defines our palette of potential self expression.
Nature’s beauty is definitely more than skin deep, it can reveal to us so much about ourselves and the human condition that it would be hard not to be inspired, and that which is skin deep is also inspiring, purely for its splendour.
- By its complexity
“Although ecological processes are complex, they often have strikingly visual components: a bee pollinating a flower, a predator hunting its prey, a fight between two rivals, the intricate habitat of a growing tree. Our intimate connection to our environment gives such images a visceral appeal.” – Editorial of the scientific journal BMC Ecology
If you ever wanted an endless source of stimulus, intricacy and detail, step outside and find somewhere green. Nature has an infinite supply of characters, settings, dramas and details playing out in ecologies and family groups and pollen floating in sunbeams. Lift up a rock and watch the creepy crawlies run. Watch the spiders lurking in the dark corners. Marvel at the strange beings that live attached to rocks by the sea. Wonder at what goes on inside a cocoon.
The natural world contains about 8.7 million species, the vast majority of which have not been identified. These species interconnect with and interact with each other in innumerable and amazing ways. Go out looking. Take an ID guide. Wonder at the wild fragile complexity of our natural world and let it inspire you.
“Forget not that the earth delights to feel your bare feet and the winds long to play with your hair.” – Khalil Gibran
Nature can inspire us with its ability to relax and bring out the best of our creative faculties, by being powerfully beautiful to behold and by revealing amazing complexity. Do you find nature inspiring? Where do you like to go to get your nature fix? As always, I’m interested to hear from you – so let me know what you think in the comment’s box below.