An Introduction to Nature, Our Medicine

an introduction to Nature, Our Medicine an introduction to Nature, Our Medicine It may seem strange for a scientifically trained medical doctor to regard nature as medicine. Yet many years of work and study as a doctor and in advocacy for environmental protection and community change have brought me to this view. Also, time spent in remote, beautiful places has allowed me to feel for myself the profound sense of rejuvenation that comes from being deeply immersed in nature. This book brings together all I have learnt about the natural world and how it provides the wellspring of healing desperately needed right now. It also outlines the precarious and fragile state of Earth’s biome, the complex layer of life we live in. Pulling together information from scientific and medical journals, public health and other experts and translating it into a more digestible format, I hope to pique your curiosity and encourage you to deepen your relationship with nature into one of reciprocity and care. Join me on a journey, from white coats and stethoscopes to forest bathing and nature prescriptions. Nature, Our Medicine is divided into two sections. In the first, the current state of life on Earth is explored, along with the trajectory humans and nature have taken to get where we are today. A brief scientific survey of the planet’s water, soil and carbon cycles is also provided, along with how the web of plant and animal life interacts within this framework, which will support the following discussion of human health. Through this, you’ll learn all the ways nature sustains us, from stabilising our climate to providing clean air, clean water and healthy soils to grow our food. The intricate relationship between the inner-most workings of our body, our gut’s microbiome, and the wider living world highlights our dependency on nature. I hope to teach you how to nurture this internal ecosystem.  Nature’s other gifts include the many medicines we draw on in today’s healthcare. There will be a focus on a few well-known agents and their surprising origins as well as promising new compounds. How protecting old-growth forests and their unique animals might hold the answer to contemporary health dilemmas like antibiotic resistance. The links between nature protection and future-proofing human wellbeing will become clear to you. Our beautiful planet also provides us with places of psychological and spiritual rejuvenation and of personal transformation. Naturally, this will be covered too. Culture and philosophy influence our relationship with nature. I will cover concepts like Gaia, systems thinking, and some First Nations’ perspectives. The First Australians have the longest continuous culture on Earth, surviving despite the ravages of colonisation. They have lived within the unique ecology of this continent for well over 60,000 years and have much to teach us about how our health sits within the wider frame of nature. Their wisdom is seeded throughout this book, alongside other First Nations’ lessons.  The latter part of section one sees us turn towards the challenges for our planet and for people. How climate change and species extinction threaten human health and all life on Earth, is unpacked. This discussion will help you understand how environmental issues affect your health. Problems like pollution, pests and land clearing obviously damage nature but they ultimately hurt us too. Even infections like COVID-19 and HIV have arisen through the disruption of natural systems. We’ll step through these issues in detail, covering the ‘what’ of our current predicament. Then we’ll ponder the ‘why’ – the attitudes which have led to such widespread and sometimes callous destruction of nature. Contrasts between First Nations’ philosophies of stewardship and care and the human-centric, extractive model of the Western capitalist system are contemplated.  At the end of section one, the state of today’s relationship between people and planet will be clear. The diagnosis is not good. Natural systems are unravelling with climate chaos and ecological collapse destabilising the foundations of human wellbeing. Part two focusses on health – the contemporary challenges we face and how reconnecting with nature provides a key part of the solution. Health problems fuelled by our indoor, sedentary lifestyle include obesity, diabetes, heart disease and depression. We are seeing these issues in younger and younger people along with behavioural struggles like poor sleep, attentional difficulties and anxiety. Despite great advances in our standards of living and life expectancy, many modern humans, in so-called ‘developed’ societies, are unhealthy and deeply unhappy. The environment we live in, often devoid of nature, is foreign to the world of our evolution. The COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the many vulnerabilities within our health systems and social structures and saw entire populations shut away. Many were cut off from friends and family and had no access to natural environments. The aftershocks of psychological distress are still with us and many will never be the same. Fortunately, nature-based health interventions provide simple, inexpensive answers. Discover the benefits to be had outside for your physical and mental health and for children’s learning and development. Learn how to incorporate a green hour into your day and how to write your own nature prescription. Discover the origins of shinrin-yoku (Japanese forest bathing). There is a whole world of health care out there, from surfing for autism through to Bush Adventure Therapy.  As nature can provide great relief for those suffering with grief and psychological anguish, I’ve devoted a whole chapter to this topic. Slowing down and mindfully connecting with nature to grow your green mind will help you weather life’s inevitable storms. There is also a chapter focussing on children’s need to grow up within the embrace of nature. Time spent outside, engaged in nature play, can help the whole child – physically, psychologically and emotionally. In fact, this free time playing in nature is as important as a good night’s sleep and eating five serves of veggies! We can work together to restore the ecology of our world and in doing so enhance our personal wellbeing and the health of humanity globally. I

Journalling After Nature Immersion

journalling after nature immersion journalling after nature immersion Journalling after a nature immersion experience can help you process your thoughts, feelings, and observations, allowing for deeper reflection and potential healing. Here are some journal prompts to consider after a nature immersion for healing: 1. Describe Your Experience– What natural setting did you immerse yourself in, and what did it look, sound, and smell like?– How did you feel physically and emotionally during your time in nature?– Did you notice any changes in your mood, energy levels, or overall well-being during or after the experience? 2. Connection with Nature– Describe any meaningful connections you felt with the natural environment.– Did you have any profound or spiritual experiences during your time in nature? If so, describe them.– How did being in nature make you feel more connected to yourself or the world around you? 3. Sensory Exploration– Write about the specific sights, sounds, smells, tastes, and textures you encountered during your nature immersion.– How did each sensory experience affect your state of mind and emotions? 4. Reflect on Healing– In what ways did the nature immersion contribute to your healing process?– Did you experience a sense of release, relief, or calmness? How did this contribute to your overall well-being? 5. Gratitude and Appreciation– List at least three things you are grateful for that you experienced during your time in nature.– How can you carry this sense of gratitude and appreciation into your everyday life? 6. Renewed Perspective– How has this nature immersion experience shifted or changed your perspective on life, stress, or challenges you may be facing?– In what ways can you incorporate elements of nature into your daily routine to promote healing and well-being? 7. Creative Expression– Create a poem, drawing, or any other form of creative expression inspired by your time in nature and how it made you feel. 8. Self-Compassion and Self-Care– Reflect on how you can show yourself more kindness and self-compassion as part of your healing journey.– What self-care practices can you implement to nurture your mind, body, and soul based on the insights gained from your nature immersion 9. Intentions and Commitments– Based on your nature immersion experience, what intentions or commitments do you want to set for yourself moving forward?– How can you integrate the lessons learned from nature into your daily life for continued healing and growth?– You might like to use the nature prescription template to create your own nature prescription. Sign up to get the free template. Photo credits:Woman on Mountain Top Journalling Photo by Tyler Nix on UnsplashJournalling with dried flowers Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on UnsplashJournalling Outside Photo by by David Iskander on Unsplash All Post Blog Green Living Health and Wellness Nature An Introduction to Nature, Our Medicine Read More Journalling After Nature Immersion Read More Connecting to Nature Read More

Connecting to Nature

learn how to connect to nature from the indigenous first peoples of Australia

connecting to nature connecting to nature Living a busy life in modern suburbia, it can sometimes feel like nature is distant from us, almost abstract. Working and socialising online, we have moved into virtual worlds, away from the reassuring rhythms of the world outside. The frenetic pace of screen spaces has replaced green places in our lives, and we often feel pressured and distracted. Finding time to sit quietly in a natural place that’s special to you will help you find calm and stability. Doing this regularly, you will notice the plants and animals of your place and grow roots of connection. First Peoples, who have lived on Country for thousands of generations, have much to teach non-Indigenous folk about this deep feeling. Dadirri (da-did-ee) is a word from the Ngan’gikurunggurr and Ngen’giwumirri languages of the peoples of the Daly River region in northern Australia. It means ‘deep water sounds’ and describes their way of being on Country. It is focused on quiet, still awareness; inner, deep listening and feeling nature. This way of being contrasts with the way we non-Indigenous people are often quickly moving through the world, either walking, running or driving. We also tend to talk more and ask lots of questions. Elder, Miriam-Rose Ungunmerr-Baumann, in her reflection on dadirri writes, “in our Aboriginal way, we learnt to listen from our earliest days. We could not live good and useful lives unless we listened. This was the normal way for us to learn – not by asking questions. We learnt by watching and listening, waiting and then acting. Our people have passed on this way of listening for over 40,000 years. … My people are not threatened by silence. They are completely at home in it. They have lived for thousands of years with Nature’s quietness.” She goes on to explain the quiet stillness and waiting part of dadirri. “Our Aboriginal culture has taught us to be still and to wait. We do not try to hurry things up. We let them follow their natural course, like the seasons. … To be still brings peace – and it brings understanding.” The practice of deep listening to Country is widespread in Australia, although the language shifts depending on where you are. Given the new understanding we have of the benefits of mindfulness and meditation, perhaps non-Indigenous Australians are beginning to sense this old way. Maybe we can pause and learn from the First Peoples of our ancient land and celebrate their knowledge of how best to be in this place. To find out more check out the resources below or buy Nature, Our Medicine. Online Miriam Rose Foundation  Books Treading Lightly by Tex Sculthorpe and Karl-Erik SvelbyBraiding Sweetgrass and other books by Robin Wall KimmererSalt by Bruce PascoeSand Talk by Tyson YunkaportaTell Me Why by Archie RoachBecoming Indigenous to the Universe by Kerry Arabena Photo credits:Photographs by Dr Dimity Williams All Post Blog Green Living Health and Wellness Nature An Introduction to Nature, Our Medicine Read More Journalling After Nature Immersion Read More What is Nature Play? Read More

Nature Prescriptions

nature prescriptions nature prescriptions This is a new type of prescription where a doctor suggests their patient spend a certain amount of time in nature on a regular basis. Why – because spending time in nature has great health benefits! For our body: increases physical activity so improves fitness and lowers rates of obesity, healthy exposure to sunlight which will help sleep patterns and aid the formation of vitamin D in the body (crucial for bone and muscle health and immune function) and better heart health by lowering blood pressure. This time outside even lowers our blood levels of stress hormone cortisol and enhances the activity of certain white blood cells which fight infection and prevent the development of cancer. For our mind: time in nature lowers feelings of stress and anxiety, lifts mood and improves focus. After being out in nature, focus and concentration are better and there is less tendency to ruminate (dwell on negative thoughts and feelings). For children: getting out into nature on a regular basis is especially important for child health and development. Apart from the benefits outlines above, having free time to simply play in rich natural places provides the best opportunity for kids to engage in ‘nature play’- link to blog on this here How- unplug from technology and connect to nature! Choose your special place: where’s a spot you feel comfortable that’s easy to get to?  Is it your balcony? Your garden? A nearby park or beach? Choose your nature dose: how long can you realistically commit to spending?  Set an achievable time and frequency ie. 30 minutes daily. It’s good to aim for a ‘green hour’ each day- this can be broken up into smaller pieces.  If you’re starting from very little time in nature, just 15 minutes to begin might be most achievable at first. Set your intention to connect To get the most benefit from your nature prescription you really need to be where you actually are, rather than have your attention somewhere else (listening to a podcast/on a work phone call etc…) To make this easy for yourself consider leaving your phone at home, or at the very least putting it onto airplane mode. Then, put on your nature glasses and check out the world around you! Try to engage all your senses- feel the breeze on your skin, notice the flower’s fragrance, lie on the grass and look up into the sky, touch the bark of that incredible tree- maybe even put your cheek against it. To find out more, sign up to receive a free nature prescription template, or buy Nature, Our Medicine. Photo credits:Tree hug Photo by Trent Haaland on UnsplashWoman on beach and hand touching tree photographs from Shutterstock All Post Blog Green Living Health and Wellness Nature Journalling After Nature Immersion Read More Connecting to Nature Read More What is Nature Play? Read More

What is Nature Play?

what is nature play? what is nature play? Nature play is simply providing the time and space for children to be in nature. It is child-focused and child-led with no adult-directed outcome. Why? Because free time playing in nature supports optimal child wellbeing! For growing bodies: nature play encourages physical activity so strengthens bones, muscles and heart health. Playing on uneven natural surfaces improves balance and co-ordination. Looking up into tree canopies or out to the horizon helps eye health reducing rates of visual problems like short sightedness. For growing minds: encounters with animals and natural phenomena like puddles, rain, sunrises and rainbows foster awe and wonder. These states of fascination stimulate curiosity and a love of learning. Problem-solving, creativity and resilience are all nurtured by nature play experiences. For growing nature lovers: children who grow up with nature in their lives are more likely to care about the natural world as adults- becoming the nature stewards and environmentalists of the future. How- create time and space for all children to play in nature! Make time: nature play can start as soon as children can play on their own outside, around the age of three. Cancel an organised, adult-driven activity in your child’s current schedule and replace it with a time for nature play. Try to fit in some time for this play every day. Find green places: nature play can be in your own backyard, the nearby park or you could bring some natural objects home and have a nature play corner inside if it’s really difficult to get to a green space. Nature play uses ‘loose materials’ like sticks, leaves, flowers and stones that children can incorporate into their games as they wish. Step back: this may be the tricky bit! Adults need to step back and simply allow children to play as they wish. It might be good to offer some ‘play invitations’ like a pile of sticks or leaves to help initiate play but remember not to set a goal or desired outcome! To find out more check out the resources below or buy Nature, Our Medicine Books: The Last Child in the Woods and other books by Richard Louv The Sense Of Wonder by Rachel Carson How to Raise A Wild Child by Scott D. Sampson  Online: Schools Out: Lessons from a Forest Kindergarten film directed by Lisa Molomot Project Wildthing film by David Bond- access on thewildnetwork Kids In Nature Network  Photo credits:Child with leaves Photo by Janko Ferlič on UnsplashChildren with tree branches Photo by Markus Spiske on UnsplashChildren leaning against tree Photo by by Marcus Wallis on Unsplash All Post Blog Green Living Health and Wellness Nature An Introduction to Nature, Our Medicine Read More Journalling After Nature Immersion Read More Connecting to Nature Read More