Have you ever gone to a park, or hike up a mountain, or even just passed through a garden full of greens and came out not feeling energized? I guess not. The thing is, you can’t pass through a mountain full of trees and come out not feeling refreshed. There is something in greens that cleanses the mind and brings fresh perspective. In this article we discover the deep connection between Nature and Ikigai.
Revitalizing Power of Nature
There are numerous research about the revitalizing effect of nature, especially of forest parks. Ones such research is the extensive study about the beneficial effect of basking in forest area. It is commonly called “forest bathing” and there are several good books out there that thoroughly explains about the concept —don’t worry there is no real bathing involve.
The idea of forest bathing actually originated in Japan. The term in Japanese is Shinrin Yoku which literally translate to “forest bathing”. Most empirical studies on Shinrin Yoku or forest bathing states that the mind and body reacts positively when exposed to forest environment and it leads to feeling of well-being, calmness, and renewal.
Based on their vast research, forest bathing proponents recommends regular visit to forests or places where there are many trees and greens such as city parks. If you want to learn more about Shinrin Yoku, check out the book Forest Bathing: How Trees Can Help You Find Health and Happiness by Dr. Qing Li.
Where to Enjoy Shinrin Yoku
We live in the western most part of Tokyo, so the forest area of Mt. Takao is just within walking distance. In this regard, I can’t say “there is no forest near us so it’s difficult to go forest bathing.” However, even if there is no forest near you, advocates of forest bathing asserts that city parks and small patches of green garden will do just fine.
The idea is that you don’t need to prepare for weeks complete with hiking gears and go hike a tall mountain to enjoy nature or to experience the effect forest bathing. You can receive the same effect just by walking around parks near your neighborhood.
How to Enjoy Nature
The location is not that important. What is crucial is that you focus your attention around your environment —on nature, on the trees and greens, on ponds and rivers, and on small insects flying around. Observe their connection to each other, the ecosystem, and imagine that you yourself is a part of that universal connection.
Imbibe the fresh air coming out from the plants and trees around you. Enjoy the vibrant colors and sweet scent of flowers growing all around the park. Notice that wild flowers are no less beautiful than the cultivated ones. Fondle the green leaves with your hand and cleanse your mind with their cool refreshing texture.
Feel the tree’s trunks with your hands. Admire their strength and resilience. How they have persevered all this time. Think about their struggles all throughout these years. Now reflect on your own struggles. Did it put your struggles into a new perspective? Finally ask them to impart some of their power to you and wish them luck.
Trees Have Feelings
You may ask, “why do these things?” Well, why not? Trees, like any other plants, are sentient beings that are capable feelings like you and me. If you don’t think so, then better think again.
In The Hidden Life of Trees, a book that explores the obscure life of trees, Peter Wohlleben provides refreshing narrative on how trees can communicate with each other, what they feel, and their struggles in this quickly evolving world.
After reading the book, I now try to talk to trees and plants whenever I pass them by. I try to communicate my feelings to them through touch with my hands. Yes, they can’t talk back to me, but I now know that they can feel. If trees can communicate through electrical impulses, we too can communicate with them by touch.
Nature and Ikigai
How do all these connect to our Ikigai? Nature is connected to our Ikigai in two ways. First, as mentioned above being connected to nature produces the feeling of well-being and renewal in us, and therefore it’s vital for our self-growth. Second, our relationship with nature, like our relationship with other people, is a source of deep feeling of belonging.
Yes, we are a social beings, but that does not mean we only need to build relationship with other people. We are also bound to our environment, to other living things, to nature, and to the universe at large.
It is important to remember at this point that before we are social we were of the natural world, conceived by nature, and are therefore will be bound to nature. If you need proof, you don’t need to look far, just look inside you —your body and spirit longs to connect with nature all your life. Isn’t it about time to listen?
In sum, nature is directly connected to two of our Life Tasks: Self and Relations. Nature encourages the feeling of well-being and sense of connection to our environment, and that is by themselves something worth living. When we appreciate this connection, we can begin to intentionally set goals that incorporate nature into our life. If you need a guide to set up your goal, you can check out our Ikigai Notes life tasks planner.
Go Explore Nature
I encourage you to find ways to connect to nature in your own way. How about instead of going to shopping malls at weekends, you take a small lunch box and a good book to a park near your home? You could start a hiking hobby? Do yourself a favor, keep dog as a pet and take her on a walk everyday? How about instead driving to the supermarket, you walk or bike instead? You can also start a gardening hobby at your backyard.
My wife and I started to hike mountains in western Tokyo. Mt. Takao, Mt. Jimba, Mt. Mitake, and Mt. Odake are some of the mountains most accessible to us so we often hike there. Although we’ve climbed through them multiple times before, we take a different trail each time to make the hike interesting. We have three kids so we couldn’t hike as often as we’d like to, or anywhere far from Tokyo. No matter, any hills or nature park will do for now.
What with the virus and all, we often don’t let the children go out very far. We just let them freely explore the little patch of garden outside our house. Our daughter, the eldest of the three, has grown strawberry plant in front of our house. She’s learning the joy of planting and of growing things. It is a start for her.
In every walk with nature, one receives far more than he seeks.
The point is that there are many ways to connect with nature. You just have to just go out there and begin to do something. Believe me, the moment you connect with nature, you’ll find energy and enthusiasm you never know you have within you. So do something, go out there and connect with nature in anyway that fits your lifestyle —anything is fine as long as you do it, and you do it now.