One of my favorite things to do is to be out in nature. In fact, my family and I complete the 1000 Hours Outside Challenge each year. We especially love being in our garden or spending time by the lake near our house during the spring, summer and fall months.
Nature offers a wonderful opportunity to reflect on God’s presence, goodness and beauty. Nature brings a sense of awe, calm and inner peace. It’s hard to look at the sunset, blooming flowers, and gorgeous landscapes without acknowledging the God who created it.
According to the US Environmental Protection Agency, most people spend about 93% of their time indoors, and approximately 10 hours per day on screens. There is a decline in mental health happening that is correlated with the disconnect from nature.
Nature & The Bible
God created everything from the mountains to the seas, grasslands, trees, lakes, and streams. He created birds of the air, fish of the sea and every living creature. Through nature, God teaches us, speaks to us, protects us, and provides for us. Nature reveals God’s grace, goodness, glory, righteousness, knowledge, wisdom, faithfulness, and power. Nature offers perspective on trauma, grief and suffering but also a perspective of hope and abundance, and the fulfilment of God’s promises.
- Genesis 1:9-10: “Then God said, “Let the waters below the heavens be gathered into one place, and let the dry land appear”; and it was so. God called the dry land earth, and the gathering of the waters He called seas, and God saw that it was good.”
- Genesis 1:11-12: “Then God said, “Let the earth sprout vegetation, plants yielding seed, and fruit trees on the earth bearing fruit after their kind with seed in them”; and it was so. The earth brought forth vegetation, plants yielding seed after their kind, and trees bearing fruit with seed in them, after their kind; and God saw that it was good.”
- Job 12: 7-10: “But ask the animals, and they will teach you, or the birds in the sky, and they will tell you; or speak to the earth, and it will teach you, or let the fish in the sea inform you. Which of all these does not know that the hand of the LORD has done this? In his hand is the life of every creature and the breath of all mankind.”
- Psalm 95: 4-5: “In his hand are the depths of the earth, and the mountain peaks belong to him. The sea is his, for he made it, and his hands formed the dry land.”
- Romans 1:20: “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.”
- Psalm 19:1: “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge. There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard.”
- Matthew 6:28-34: “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin.Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”
What is Nature Informed Therapy?
Nature informed therapy is a form of counseling that integrates the healing properties of the natural world into mental health treatment. Taking therapy goals into an outdoor environment can augment and amplify the therapeutic process. Many years of research have shown overwhelming support for the health benefits of spending time in the natural world.
How does Nature Informed Therapy Help?
Nature informed therapy decreases stress, anxiety and depression while increasing a sense of meaning, awareness, and restoration. Nature calms the fear center of the brain (the amygdala) causing it to shrink while providing restoration to the Prefrontal Cortex in the brain (our thinking center). Research suggests that those who participate in NIT become more resilient and are better able to balance their nervous system and are less likely to be mentally fatigued.
NIT provides an environment for people to experience “safe suffering” while getting comfortable with discomfort. This increases distress tolerance and allows for a person to learn to breathe and stay within their window of tolerance.
NIT can also facilitate bilateral stimulation (BLS) in the brain though the use of stimuli that is presented to both sides of the brain (i.e. walking, nature sounds). BLS seems to simulate and unlock the “stuck” information while allowing the brain to reprocess traumatic or negative experiences in a healthy way.
What does Nature Informed Therapy Look Like?
Nature Informed Therapy can involve walk-and-talk sessions outside, nature groups, immersive experiences in nature, mindfulness exercises, art therapy, and bringing elements of nature into an indoor or virtual session.