Near sunset, the Solstice sun blazes late in the day. Facing west, I am grateful to sit on my marble bench, a fireplace hearth from my former home secured on two cement blocks overlooking the garden pond. From this vantage point, three tall Japanese red-throated lilies rise above the budding green shoots of the lily bed. They are parade masters setting the pace for the vibrant blossoms ahead.
Over the last two decades, my soul tracking practice has demonstrated how gratitude comes with ease during the season of summer growth. Science is now proving the connection between nature and our well-being. Yesterday, John Douillard, a certified Ayurvedic practitioner, posted an article on The Life Changing Benefits of Forest Bathing. He cites 4 scientific articles, which attest to how our conscious immersion in nature can make a positive difference in our mood, state of mind and relationships to others. He writes,
The Science is Convincing
Four studies were done measuring the psychological effects of nature immersion. They found that those who regularly “bathed” in nature were more pro-social, focused on supporting others, and those who did not spend time in nature were more self-focused and self-centered. The group that spent more time in nature were also found to be more generous in their decision-making. These studies suggest that nature immersion supports a more community-focused, giving mindset.
In another study, after just a 4-day nature immersion and a disconnection from any type of technology, creativity and problem-solving skills were enhanced by a whopping 50%.
In other studies that were part of the Attention Restoration Theory (ART), nature immersion was shown to boost executive processing and cognitive functions such as selective attention, problem-solving, inhibition, and multi-tasking.
The effects of forest bathing were measured by comparing the inflammatory markers of 2 groups of ten healthy adults. One group was immersed in a city and the other group immersed in nature – both for four days. The nature-immersed group saw reduced oxidative stress, lower cortisol (stress hormone) levels and less inflammatory markers along with greater signs of energy and vigor compared to the city-immersed group.
Day lilies provide excellent practice in mindful immersion. After coffee, I arrive at the lily bed early when the petals first open to feed on light. I steady my gaze and relax my breath as I focus with deliberate intention on the shape, color, smell, and overall aesthetic of the blossom before me.
A peach and striped lemon lily appetizer, a prelude to the main course, appeared two days ago. I photographed it, to savor deep in winter when the season of white pervades. Douillard reports that in another study, many of these nature immersion benefits were mimicked by exposing a group to a virtual reality nature experience. This suggests that if you cannot regularly expose yourself to nature, having pictures and murals of nature in your living environment may deliver some of the nature immersion benefits. I have found that pictures from nature, especially those evoking contentment, can buoy the spirit.
If I were a flower, I would be a day lily. Swelling until I burst, petals splayed with color— yellow edged, pink center, black stamen—I raise my face to the sun, quenching my thirst for light through the long day until the chill of dusk causes me to shrivel and wane.
I’m in Camden , ME thinking about you, and how much you have always immersed yourself in the beauty of nature! From your love of your Waban garden, to our daily walks before work up and down the hills of beautiful Waban, to your pleasure working in your Kennebunkport garden, to your walks on Goose Rocks Beach searching for beach shells, to your love of the landscape of mid- coast ME…That quality of appreciation, gratitude and immersion in nature has been within your soul as long as I have known you. It does not surprise me, therefore, that if you could be a flower you would choose to be a day lily. You would fill your entire flower being with full expression and delight in enjoying being a day lily!
Thank you, Bev! and you, in midcoast Maine, immersed in the wonder of Camden and environs, Enjoy!!
I felt that this essay offered a lovely, reflective way into its subject, starting with “thinking” material (the studies), and ending with a kind of natural immersion. The writers’ closing describes an ordinary flower–the day lily–with extraordinary allure, and its temporary magnificence seems to glow.
Rosemary, Thank you, Rosemary. You caught the essence of my effort to offer the science and then “show” how immersion can work. It was a fun piece to work and especially how serendipitously Douillard’s information arrived at exactly the right time.
How uplifting! Once again I thank you for making me so aware of how nature can soothe me.
May you have more gentle time in the sun to keep yourself aglow.
I so appreciate your comment-especially the notion of “gentle time.” I may reference it for a future post.Wish you the same!