The music of the forest often sounds like rustling leaves, chirping birds and gurgling waters. To sit and observe the stillness can make you feel connected to yourself. You acknowledge your thoughts, recognize them and are unaffected by them.
Every year until my early adulthood, I spent my summers at my grandpa’s place, which is in a hill station in India. We would go hiking to the natural waterfall with a pool that was near his house. On the way he’d take me to the guava trees he had planted, and we’d enjoy a fruit or two from it. Upon reaching the pool, we’d go swimming and spend hours soaking up in the sun. It was healing to be in nature.
Spending time in nature can have a range of physical and psychological benefits including reduced stress, improved mood and boosted cognitive function.
A 2015 study out of Stanford University found that participants who walked for 90 minutes in a natural, vegetative environment showed decreased neural activity in the areas of the brain that fixate on negative emotions.
[Related: OPINION: Stop stressing and start reading]
When our workspaces are not surrounded by nature, all our attention is directed toward the task at hand. This is called directed attention. According to American Psychological Association, "Directed attention fatigues people through overuse.” In nature, you find that attention is automatic because it springs from fascination. For high density cities where the access to nature is cutoff, the above research suggests that the cities should be designed in a long and thin fashion giving people easy access to the countryside.
Being connected to nature can make us feel calm. As Paper Kites sing, “Watch the trees turn to shadows now/ See the light changing her color/ When it fades away/ I still hear the sweet sound of you.” Observing the nature around me makes me feel close to my roots. It often reminds me of my grandpa and how he was one with nature.
Every day during sunset my grandpa would sit out on the porch and speak to the mockingjays sitting on the transmission lines. Not wanting to disturb this routine of his, I would watch him from a corner. He would whistle to the birds and the birds would reply and try to imitate his tune. This connection he had with the nature surrounding him was calming and I loved being around him.
I can almost see spring blooming in Bloomington. Some beautiful places you can visit on campus that I can personally attest to are Biology Greenhouse, Dunn Woods, Beck Chapel and Rosewell House. Furthermore, you can explore nature hotspots around Bloomington including Griffy Lake and Hickory Ridge Fire Tower.
I leave you with this quote from Sylvia Plath: “I felt my lungs inflate with the onrush of scenery— air, mountains, trees, people. I thought, ‘This is what it is to be happy.’”
What better time than now to wander out into nature and feel the sun on your skin?
Sanjana Jairam (she/her) is a first-year graduate student studying data science.