In the past two years, research at the National Institutes of Health has reported a dramatic increase in depression and anxiety. During the Covid pandemic, millions of us have lost our sense of stability and personal security. Struggling with confusion and hopelessness, we've been searching for greater peace of mind.
In my book, The Tao of Inner Peace, I write about another time of stress and upheaval, 25 centuries ago during the warring states period in ancient China, when Lao Tzu found peace of mind by connecting with nature. Now, research has shown how connecting with nature can heal us in so many ways.
Researchers 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 whose rooms looked out at only bare brick walls. Research has shown that connecting with nature can help relieve anxiety and depression, renewing our hope by expanding our vision beyond ourselves.
As we become more aware of the natural world, we develop a more expansive vision of life. We see that we are a vital part of nature's growth process. We can gain greater hope by realizing that our choices can positively shape our future, creating greater peace within and around us.
How can you renew your hope by connecting with nature today?
- This can be as simple as standing up and looking out your window at the green world outside.
- Or step outside, look up at the sky, take a long, deep breath and release it. Breathe out stress. Breathe in peace.
- Spend some time in your garden or take a walk in a nearby park.
- Play with your dog or cat
- Or look up at the stars at night. As they sparkle overhead, become more aware that you're part of this magnificent cosmos we call home.
I invite you to take one step to reconnect with the natural world today. That step naturally leads to another for as the Tao Te Ching tells us:
"A tree that grows beyond your reach
Springs from a tiny seed.
A building over nine stories high
Begins with a handful of earth.
A journey of a thousand miles
Begins with a single step."
(Tao, chapter 64)
I wish you joy on the path.
 Recent anxiety disorders statistics from the Anxiety Disorders Association of America (ADAA): http://www.adaa.org/understanding-anxiety and the National Institute of Mental Health, http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/statistics/prevalence/any-anxiety-disorder-among-adults.shtml. Information on depression and suicide rates in the United States from the National Institute of Mental Health, https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/statistics/index.shtml
 Ulrich, R. S. et al. (1984). View through a window may influence recovery from surgery. Science, 224, 420-421.
 Berman, M.G., Kross, E., Krpan, K.M., Askren, M. K., Burson, A., Deldin, P. J., Kaplan, S., Sherdell, L., Gotlip, I. H., Jonides, J. (2012). Interacting with nature improves cognition and affect for individuals with depression. Journal of Affective Disorders, 140, 300-305; Howell, A. J., Dopko, R. L., Passmore, H.A., & Buro, K. (2011). Nature connectedness: Associations with well-being and mindfulness. Personality and Individual Differences, 51, 166-171; Martyn, P., & Brymer, E. (2016). The relationship between nature relatedness and anxiety. Journal of Health Psychology, 21 (7), 1436-1445; Ulrich, R. S.,Simons,R. F., Losito, B. D., Fiorito, E., Miles, M.A., 7 Zelson, M. (1991). Stress recovery during exposure to natural and urban environments. Journal of Environmental Psychology, 11, 2-10-230; Zhang, J. W., Howell, R. T., & Iyer, R. (2014). Engagement with natural beauty moderates the positive relation between connectedness with nature and psychological well-being. Journal of Environmental Psychology, 38, 55-63.