Nature and Mental Health 

This week we are revisiting our relationship with nature and the effect that it has on our mental health and wellbeing. Finally the rain seems to have stopped and we are enjoying some sunshine. I was reminded of when I was looking out of the window of my apartment in Doha Qatar when I was working at Sidra Hospital.  Below me the City was a busy place and I could see at least a thousand houses. Each house full of people, thousands of people. The roads full, sometimes gridlocked, as all these people rushed from somewhere to somewhere else. All in a frenzied dash that is, for many human beings throughout the world, normal everyday life. I was struck by the overwhelming concept of ‘just how many of us human beings are there living on this planet?’

Ed and I were talking about nature, being in nature and living with nature. He had just arranged a family cycling day which attracted over 300 people who took their cycles on private tracks through a private estate. The families were riding through the woods in touch with nature. Also that day it rained, heavy reason, so a lot of what the day was in a mud bath. This just added to the fun and the sense of being free and in the woods with nature.

It can be hard in a desert, that is distinctly beige, to feel connected to nature. I am used to the European landscapes of rolling green hills and mellow fruitfulness. The sandy colours seem so flat. I also realise that people living in hot countries do not go out side very much. If I walked from here to the store, exactly one kilometre, which would be no big deal in the UK but in 45 degrees at 6pm with 80% humidity it can feel quite a task.

Talking to Ed and looking out of the window now makes me realise how easy it is to lose touch with nature. We seem to have become pretty clever at creating artificial environments to be in. In the Middle East we go from the air conditioned apartment to the air conditioned car. On work days we then go from the air conditioned car to air conditioned office. At the weekends we go from the air conditioned car to the air conditioned shopping mall and all the time we hardly touch nature at all.

This is also becoming true in Europe. We have created our artificial living environments with double glazing and central heating. In one part of the world we have created a way of living where we go inside to get out of the heat while in another part of the world we go inside to get away from the cold. Either way we have ceased to live with nature. And when we do go out we sit in our cars a bubble outside of the nature around us.

I am struck by the idea that should the electricity fail so that we could no long cool or heat our living spaces or run our EVs we would all shortly die out. I suspect that we have become so removed from nature that we would no longer know how to live and survive without the technology that surrounds us.

Technology is really great. It created the iPad that I am typing this on and the recording facilities that we record the podcast on. It will also have created whatever device you read this or listen to the podcast on but, without electricity all of this, all of our lives and our well being would come to an immediate end. With global warming if we all retreated to the woods and lit fires to survive we would just make the situation worse. I agree that we need to get back to nature but we need to get back on her terms not ours. My fear is that we have become to disassociated from nature that we no longer really understand what our relationship should be. The only people left on the planet who would understand this are the Amazonian Indians and other hunter gatherers that live in and with nature very day. Sadly these poor souls, who may have the key to our survival, are being displaced and having their environment degraded and destroyed by the mad rush to clear what is left of the rain forests. 

I have a feeling that decisions about our future on this planet will, if they have not already, be taken out of our hands. Mother Nature is a nice girl unless you cross and then she gets her own back. The loss of the dinosaurs or any of the other mass extinctions that have happened throughout the life of this planet are Mother Nature simply re-establishing a balance. It just might the same thing is about to happen again.

So my message to all of humanity is, do what you can to stop the destruction and enjoy it while you can.

Take care

Sean x

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