As an environmental activist and therapist, I see first-hand the difference being in nature can make – and what better time to honour our Mother Earth than this April, during Earth Month.
Numerous studies have found that spending time outdoors in natural settings can reduce stress, anxiety and depression, while enhancing mood and overall well-being. Unfortunately, as we are spending less time outdoors, the level of disconnection to the land becomes greater, and this can have adverse effects not only on us, but the Earth too.
Being stuck indoors all day under fluorescent lights, or sitting at home staring at a computer screen, can really take its toll. We can forget to listen to our bodies and spirit, and end up feeling drained, tired and even depressed.
Through trial and error, I’ve realized over the years that the best way for me to find work-life balance is to seek nature, in any form possible. Connecting with nature doesn’t have to mean travelling to a remote spot in the wilderness to completely immerse yourself. Nature is accessible in your everyday life. Although I do love extreme hiking and traveling to new places, sometimes it is the smallest things that I find peace in – like watching flowers and trees bloom, listening to the birds talking, or the smell of the freshly washed Earth after a rainfall. All of this can be done by going for a walk.
For me, it starts with acknowledging the land, and reminding myself that I come from her. We are interconnected at a level that goes beyond flesh and bone. Respecting the Earth is, in turn, respecting myself, my neighbours and all people of the land.
Imagine if we valued our Earth and our bodies as much as we value the appearance of our homes, our cars and other material items? If, when we held the water in our hands, it felt like having all the money in the world. How much better would we be at saving her? How much better would we feel?
Nature helps us feel better, that is a fact. Nature restores our mental capacity, providing opportunities for creativity, relaxation and reflection. Being outside in green or natural spaces can also improve physical health, reducing the risk of chronic diseases such as diabetes, obesity and heart disease.
This is why I have always valued my own connection to the land, and I encourage you to do the same, in a way that works for you. Here are some places you can start:
- On busy days, try taking breaks or eating outdoors, or even taking calls outside if you can.
- Even if you’re indoors, sitting by an open window, hanging a bird feeder, or surrounding yourself with houseplants are small ways to let nature in. Some studies have shown that even looking at photos of natural environments can reduce stress.
- Learn a new eco-friendly skill, like growing your own vegetables, or native plant gardening, at a local workshop.
- Check out the activities at nearby green spaces. Evergreen Brickworks and Toronto Botanical Gardens are good places to start.
Now take a moment – even 15 minutes – and spend some time in nature. Breathe in deeply and allow the flow of energy to wash over you. I promise your body will thank you, and so will the Earth.
Nadia George is an award-winning Indigenous actor, activist, and therapeutic performance coach based in Toronto. She has gained recognition for her advocacy work on topics including Indigenous equity, environmental justice and mental health, and is also an ambassador for charities including Water First, Dreamcatcher Charitable Foundation, and The Child Welfare PAC.