Why is it that each time I walk down the park, stroll along the beach or watch the sunrise and sunset that I end up feeling refreshed and energized? I wonder. And on occasions when I trek along the legendary Orchard Road that I feel quite the opposite, even though I am often greeted by interesting sights such as the overly zealous Christmas decorations that punctuate its narrow skyline, the fancy flash mobs that appear and disappear out of nowhere, or the predatory shoppers who leave no article unturned during sales.
Recently, I visited the Land of the Rising Sun. In Hokkaido, the weather was bitingly cold. Yet being surrounded by the vastness of the mountains and the impeccable Japanese hospitality, the physical discomfort took a back seat. There was a sense of wonderment and an inexplicable feeling of lightness. Strangely, this fascinating experience went away very quickly just as the YEN in my wallet when I set foot into the crowded streets of Tokyo.
Even Jane Austen, the famous English novelist wrote in Emma: “To sit in the shade on a fine day, and look upon verdure is the most perfect refreshment”. And it seems valid, according to a number of studies which suggest that the natural environment can have restorative features. For example, van den Berg, Koole, and van der Wulp (2003) found that people feel better in the natural environment than the urban environment when they were asked to rate their mood states before and after viewing films of a simulated walk in the natural environment and a disturbing urban environment.
A friend of mine makes it a point to go for her weekly walks at Mac Ritchie reservoir. She says nature never intended us to live this way – possibly referring to the highly urbanized setting most people spend their days in today’s world. Paying homage to nature has its positive effects, she quipped, alleging that she feels more energetic and prettier these days. I suppose the latter part of that statement could be challenged, but I cannot disagree that she does come across sprightlier than her “pre-nature” days.
It seems to me that in a world consumed by thoughts, societal pressures, financial concerns and demands of others, nature allows people to come to terms with the intricate world. Simply by appreciating its unchallenged beauty, one gets a feeling that life’s meaning is beyond dollars and cents or the expectations of others through a sense of connectedness with a larger structure. “Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better,” advised physicist Albert Einstein.
Perhaps Einstein was referring to the sense of purpose and belonging many of us are searching for. Yet it seems these very things that we are searching for are already present in nature, all it takes is for us to welcome them. So the next time you go the park or the seaside, take time to listen to what nature might be telling you.
– By Ignatius Pang, FASS Student Support