Could it be that... Society

The role of nature in personal welfare

Shot of a group of designers having a meeting at a coffee shop

Shot of a group of designers having a meeting at a coffee shop  

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Losing ties with nature could be affecting your mental health more than you realise, writes Sunalini Mathew

More than a decade ago, I was asked at a job interview to name a book that had changed my life. I didn’t have an answer then (I didn’t get the job either). Now, I kind of have an answer. Last year, I read a book that changed the way I look at life: Lost Connections: Uncovering the Real Causes of Depression — and the Unexpected Solutions. Johann Hari, the author, speaks of how we’ve lost our connection with nature, with each other, and consequently, with ourselves.

I thought about the book as I sat in a basement auditorium of a no-personality five-star business hotel, with bone-chilling air-conditioning that gave me a cold. We were in Goa, where it was rainy and green, and I could neither smell the earth, nor feel the breeze.

Instead, I was sitting in a space that could have been anywhere in the world, with men wearing culture-flattening dark suits. Johann’s book speaks of depression, but it’s really just as relevant to food and the way it affects our physical and mental health.

Through the day, I didn’t feel like drinking water because of the unnatural cold (try getting warm water at a conference). I drank sugary coffee ato keep warm. I snacked on biscuits. Ironically, I was at a conference organised by the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI).

What if we’d sat outdoors under a thatched structure, surrounded by greenery? Yes, we’d have some rain spatter on us, but perhaps it would have reminded us of the little pleasures holding our palms out to catch the raindrops. We’d have drunk water in tandem with the weather, and our eyes and mind would have been calmed by the greenery. We’d also have saved electricity.

Why is it that we see the world in silos? And our jobs as being disconnected to life? What is the pleasure of a ‘smart’ building if they don’t give us health and happiness?

A couple of weeks ago, Greta Thunberg’s campaign against poor policies that had led to climate change shook the world up just a little. Before our children realise that it is us who have ruined their health too, by encouraging obesogenic environments, it’s time to create spaces that feed into our well-being, rather than ruin it.

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Printable version | Dec 6, 2019 8:18:08 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/society/the-connection-between-being-in-nature-and-better-mental-health/article29681269.ece

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