Our pink kimi ginger garden is in full blossom bordering the polished coral walkway to our front door. Its leafy green stalks and ten-inch ice cream cone-shaped blossoms stand short to thirteen feet tall. They grow densely like a miniature jungle, threatening to overwhelm passers by. We have to tie them back and prune frequently. Having a kimi ginger garden is new and I have discovered that I love to prune. Whacking away at the base of the stalks, when the blooms have grown gnarly on top, brings a perverse pleasure. Felling a thirteen-footer, as I stand five feet five inches, just feels like I am evening the score in some cosmic height game.
Why does it feel so good to be outdoors? Scientists have been documenting nature’s healing powers. James Hamblin wrote an interesting article in The Atlantic magazine on “The Nature Cure.” He cited many studies. “Researchers in the United Kingdom found that when people did physical activities in natural settings instead of ‘synthetic environments,’ they experienced less anger, fatigue and sadness.” Another study found that children with ADHD who play outdoors in natural settings, such as parks, have milder symptoms than children with ADHD who play primarily indoors. Also, addicts who participate in camping programs have lower relapse rates than those who do not. To put it bluntly, my mother was right when she said, “Go outside and play. You’ll feel better.”
Richard Louv wrote Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children From Nature-Deficit Disorder in 2005, examining research and concluding that direct exposure to nature is necessary for healthy childhood development and physical and emotional health of adults. It sparked a growing movement to keep children connected to nature. The research states that people are attracted to and renewed by looking at nature and nature images. There is something healing about natural environments. I can certainly attest to this, living part time in Hawaii.
James Hamblin also referred to a February 2015 academic conference at the University of California at Berkeley, where scientists discussed “the latest research on the health benefits of awe, including reductions in levels of cortisol, a stress hormone.” Awe is frequently the experience described by people in the midst of nature. So, nature de-stresses us, as it fills us with awe. Awe is also a spiritual experience. Isn’t that awesome?