Nature’s Gift of Solitude

Solitude

Humanity needs no reminder that our lives have become more and more frenetic – in multiple ways. Solitude is almost a lost art in these times of ultra-connectedness.  We live in a fast-paced world of bombarding information and increasing expectations of instant connection, with less emphasis on the quality of that connection. This can lead to high levels of mental fatigue, requiring a restorative intervention to normalise to a healthy state of balance.

And yet, we are generally aware that this extreme pace of life, is not serving us as a species. The challenge lies in finding the opportunity and the personal conviction to get off the spinning wheel – even to a small degree – and take a breath. This often results in feelings of vulnerability, disconnect and even loneliness. And so, we hurtle back to the busyness without experiencing the magical moments of quiet and rejuvenation (now scientifically backed by research). Perhaps the silence for many, is too loud.

And yet in the words of Mother Theresa; “God is the friend of silence. See how nature – trees, flowers, grass – grow in silence, see the stars, the moon and the sun, how they move in silence…. We need silence to be able to touch souls.”

I personally, had the privilege of spending the Covid-19 lockdown in a quiet and beautiful natural environment. The full stop (for some it was a comma) created by the lockdown, reminded me of what I already knew. As a practitioner of mindfulness, I am aware of the scientific benefits of mindfulness.  Replenishment of body and soul comes in the quietness of just being. And being in nature enhances the experience.

Lead with Humanity includes both formal and informal mindful practices during its leadership immersions, which includes spending time in serene and untouched Big 5 country.   It is in these periods of stillness that the experience of being fully present in nature is most profound. It is in this experience that we truly connect with ourselves. Leadership is, after all, about being fully connected to one’s self, in order to connect with those we lead.

Being quiet in nature has a notable impact on our brains and has several behavioural benefits:

  1. It reduces feelings of anxiety
  2. It helps us to manage our stress
  3. It increases our ability to think creatively
  4. It improves focus and our attention span
  5. It gives us more clarity in our thinking
  6. It increases empathy and the way we view those around us
  7. It encourages a deeper understanding of and connection to ourselves.

Interesting that all these benefits are evidenced in the regular practice of mindfulness. We have always suspected this and now we know it to be scientifically true. Perhaps as a species we may actually have evolved to be more relaxed in natural spaces? There is ongoing research showing that being quiet in nature can increase feelings of positive emotion, generosity and kindness – possibly linked to a sense of being part of something bigger than oneself. Something that inspires us, that makes us look at the world with awe and wonder.

Not everyone has the privilege of being able to immerse in a natural environment, but just creating a deeper awareness of our natural environment, will make a difference. It is inspiring to see developments around the world of green zones and urban gardens in the most unexpected places. As a result, there are more opportunities to spend our limited spare time in mindful quietness in nature.

Our planet’s natural environments need our protection.  Perhaps not only for our physical survival, but for our very humanity.