Scientists or writers, philosophers or filmmakers… Their approaches may vary but their consensus is clear: time in nature (even a short “dose”) does a world of good for our minds, bodies and souls. We’ve gathered some of our favourites from this year’s Natural Thinking playlists to inspire your wintery forays outside.
Defining a ‘dose’ of nature – Blue Earth
In 2019, psychologists at the University of Exeter completed a study showing that spending at least two hours out in nature per week significantly boosts health and wellbeing. Dr Mathew White breaks it down.
The Living Mountain – Nan Shepherd
Iconic nature writer Nan Shepherd’s lyrical account of a life spent loving the Cairngorms captures better than most the bodily sensations of being in, and alive to, nature.
“The whole skin has this delightful sensitivity; it feels the sun, it feels the wind running inside one's garment, it feels water closing on it as one slips under – the catch in the breath, like a wave held back, the glow that releases one's entire cosmos, running to the ends of the body as the spent wave runs out upon the sand. This plunge into the cold water of a mountain pool seems for a brief moment to disintegrate the very self; it is not to be borne: one is lost: stricken: annihilated. Then life pours back.”
Fishpeople – Keith Malloy
From a free diver to a big wave surfer to an open-ocean swimmer, this beautifully told documentary meets people with an intimate relationship to water. Each of them embody what’s become known as Blue Mind theory – that being in and around water can be truly life-transforming, for body and mind.
The Peace of Wild Things – Wendell Berry
American novelist, poet, farmer and environmental activist Wendell Berry’s moving verse draws on his reverence for nature and the freedom of wild places. Read, reread and let his words linger on:
When despair grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children's lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting for their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.
John O’Donohue: The Inner Landscape of Beauty
A remarkable interview with the late Irish philosopher and poet John O’Donohue, on our inner and outer landscapes and the thresholds in between.
“I think it makes a huge difference, when you wake in the morning and come out of your house, whether you believe you are walking into dead geographical location, which is used to get to a destination, or whether you are emerging out into a landscape that is just as much, if not more, alive as you, but in a totally different form.”
Why You Should Try the Japanese Art of Forest Bathing – Lifehacker
Researchers in Japan have proven that spending time around trees benefits our minds and bodies in myriad ways. An introduction to the practice of shinrin-yoku, or ‘forest-bathing’: