“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately,
To front only the essential facts of life and see if I could not learn what it had to teach,
And not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.”
Henry David Thoreau –
From crammed commutes and daily deadlines to messages upon messages and meetings upon meetings, the lives we live seldom stop.
We compare, if not compete, how busy we are, as though busy was a virtue. This so-called ‘Cult of Busyness’, however, has emerged as a significant health concern that can cause chronic anxiety, fatigue and stress.
In the words of author and naturalist, Henry David Thoreau, “It is not enough to be busy, so are the ants. The question is, what are we busy about?”. The answer, for me and for Thoreau, lies somewhere in nature.
A foray into nature – whether for one minute, one hour, one day or one week – acts as one of the most reliable remedies for a busy life lived amidst carbon dioxide and concrete. In fact, science has shown that exposing oneself to nature offers a range of physiological and psychological benefits: from decreasing cortisol levels and resting heart rate to increasing immunity and cognitive function.
As an avid hiker and trail-runner, I can attest to these many benefits, but also to those that science will find difficult to document: calm, clarity, reflection, perspective and a moment of ‘being’ rather than ‘being busy’.
The challenge, for many readers, lies in increasing their exposure to nature. The solution, however, is simple.
One does not need to become a recluse nor retire to the wild woods of Walden Pond. You can start small. You can embark on what the award-winning adventurer Alastair Humphreys describes as a “micro-adventure”. You can take the scenic route to work or spend lunch-time in inner-city greenspace (rather than at your desk). You can visit your local National Trust property or even explore Britain’s many, magnificent National Trails.
Above and beyond the benefits brought by nature, you will encounter a new experience and, consequently, send your brain new information. This process creates the perception of time slowing down, which makes it difficult for even the busiest people to feel busy.
I will end this romantic ramble with a call to action (or rather with a call to the wild). I implore you to explore. To stop, slow down and spend some time in nature.
Unless, of course, you’re too busy.
Written by Michael McCourt, Planner at Now