Next time you’re feeling a little blue, head for the hills!
Or, right outside to putter around in your own backyard.
A new study reported in the American Chemical Society’s Environmental Science & Technology shows that just five minutes of physical exercise in the presence of nature significantly boosts mental and physical well-being. Walking, gardening, fishing, cycling, boating, or farming—even for as little as five minutes—offers health benefits. Even city dwellers can reap the benefits of “green exercise” if they take a walk or jog in the city park. The study found that water adds even greater boost to one’s mood. (As Water Rat from The Wind in the Willows would say, “there is nothing--absolutely nothing--half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats.”)
But, there’s more. Spending time in nature is also good for the soul.
Pope Benedict didn’t need a research study to recognize the benefits of nature. He writes, “That is why it is so necessary for us, who live constantly in an artificial world of man-made things, to leave it behind and seek to encounter creation in its natural state.”i The pope is not advocating tree hugging or nature worship; he is acknowledging the way the beauty of creation can raise our hearts and minds to God.
And, how necessary this is, for the human soul.
Our daily lives are often hectic and impersonal, with urgent tasks of work and home demanding attention, and the ever present technology at our fingertips—Blackberrys, iPods, iPads, e-mail, and Facebook. Silence, contemplation, and long, intimate conversations seem elusive. Worse, our digital, technological world can obscure God’s presence. Pope Benedict puts it even more emphatically: “God does not come to light in the artificial world of man-made things. So it is all the more necessary for us to leave our workaday world behind and go in search of the breath of creation…”ii
How often we find ourselves becoming aware of God’s presence when we behold the beauty and majesty of nature—whether the brilliant brush strokes of sunset on the beach or the breathtaking peaks of snow-covered mountains. And so Pope Benedict urges us to get away from the daily grind to a place of rest and, most importantly, contemplation. These summer months offer us the perfect opportunity.
i Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, Seek That Which is Above. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1986, 2007.
ii Ibid, p156.