If you've been feeling down, frustrated, anxious, or low energy lately, you're not alone. Research at the National Institutes of Mental Health has reported a dramatic increase in depression and anxiety during the COVID pandemic.  Millions of us have lost our sense of stability, hope, and personal security.
Long ago, in another time of stress and upheaval, 25 centuries ago during the warring states period in ancient China, Lao Tzu found renewed hope and peace of mind by connecting with nature and wrote the Tao Te Ching.
Today, research has found that connecting with nature can heal us on many levels. Research in a Philadelphia hospital found that abdominal surgery patients with a view of trees outside their windows suffered from fewer complications, needed less pain medication, and were discharged sooner than patients with the same surgery and hospital conditions whose rooms looked out at only bare brick walls. 
Recent research has shown that connecting with nature can bring us feelings of awe, renewing our hope by expanding our vision beyond ourselves. We can feel awe when we see a radiant sunset, the grandeur of snow capped mountains, or giant redwood trees towering above us. We can also be inspired by small green signs of life as spring bulbs emerge from the cold winter earth.
This week I was feeling drained by all the challenges in my life. But as I walked out my back door, I noticed that the snow pea seeds I'd planted last week had sprouted. Now tiny seedlings were raising their green heads above the soil. Their small green leaves connected me to the renewing power of nature and brought new hope to my day.
What is one thing you can do to experience nature's healing power--
- Take a walk around your neighborhood or in a nearby park?
- Look up to watch the clouds overhead or gaze at the stars in the night sky?
- Plant seeds of spring flowers and vegetables and watch them grow?
- If the ground is still frozen where you live, grow herbs on a sunny kitchen windowsill
- Put a bird feeder near your window and watch the birds fly in to enjoy a meal.
- Find some other way to connect with nature?
Close your eyes, take a deep breath, and visualize yourself doing this.
For as the Tao Te Ching tells us:
"When we value ourselves
As part of nature
And value nature
We're at home
In the oneness
Now open your eyes and reach out to connect with the healing power of nature.
I wish you joy on the path.
 Hossain, M. M., Tasnim, S., Sultana, A., Faizah, F., Mazumder, H., Zou, L., McKyer, E., Ahmed, H. U., & Ma, P. (2020). Epidemiology of mental health problems in COVID-19: a review. F1000Research, 9, 636. https://doi.org/10.12688/f1000research.24457.1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7549174/
 Ulrich, R. S. et al. (1984). View through a window may influence recovery from surgery. Science, 224, 420-421.
 Keltner, D. & Haidt, J. (2003). Approaching awe, a moral, spiritual, and aesthetic emotion. Cognition and Emotion, 17, 297.
 An earlier version of this article appeared in Dreher, D. (2000). The Tao of Inner Peace. New York, NY: Penguin Putnam, now available as an ebook. A new audiobook edition was published by Penguin Random House in January 2022. To preview the audiobook, click here.