I know that may sound daft, of course we know we are humans, but how many of us consider what that means in terms of our basic needs?

Desmond Morris in ‘The Naked Ape’ wrote about humans from a zoological perspective – humans as animals. He explained our primitive origins, how we evolved in response to our environment. Technology has advanced much more quickly than the evolutionary process and so our primitive selves remain strong. We can see this in the way we respond to stress - primitive parts of our brain (the amygdala) trigger our Vagus nerve, which runs from our brain right down into our heart, lungs, and digestive system. Research suggests that to remain healthy this nerve must experience periods of calm, and this can be achieved through relaxation. How many of us see relaxation as a basic human need and as being of equal importance to housework and work commitments?

There is also something called ‘flow’, which is the act of doing something in which you become completely absorbed. Have you ever become so involved in something that you lost track of time? That’s flow! Benefits of flow can be increased happiness, better emotional regulation, and improved performance and sense of achievement.

Anyone familiar with the ‘five ways to wellbeing’ will know that being active brings many benefits to physical and mental health. Regular exercise can reduce the risk of some diseases. It can strengthen our bodies, improve our mood, brain structure and sleep.

So, I hear you ask, how does all that fit in with nature? Well, one way that we can achieve relaxation, exercise and flow all at the same time is through spending time outdoors in our natural habitat. For many people during lockdown, going for a walk has become a daily task, but how many people just go for a walk, without engaging with their surroundings and taking time to enjoy them? Even if you live in a built-up area there is usually a bit of green not too far away where you could absorb yourself in nature, observe plants and animals, enjoy the seasons.

I walk every day with my dog, and many times when I have been busy, or stressed I have dragged myself out in all weathers because I love my dog and recognise that this is a basic need for him. Often, I have had a moment of sunshine in the pouring rain. I have seen a spectacular sky in the freezing cold, or watched a deer flitting through the woods in the early morning. Nature is ever changing. No two days are the same. Practice being in the moment, and being curious about where you might go, and what you might see. I urge you to try it. Go on - indulge your primitive self!

I’ll leave you with this. I think it sums up what I was trying to say:

Leisure by William Henry Davies

What is this life if, full of care,

We have no time to stand and stare.

No time to stand beneath the boughs

And stare as long as sheep or cows.

No time to see, when woods we pass,

Where squirrels hide their nuts in grass.

No time to see, in broad daylight,

Streams full of stars, like skies at night.

No time to turn at Beauty's glance,

And watch her feet, how they can dance.

No time to wait till her mouth can

Enrich that smile her eyes began.

A poor life this if, full of care,

We have no time to stand and stare.

Lancashire Mind is a company limited by guarantee (company number 3888655) and a registered charity in England and Wales (registered number 1081427) at 80-82 Devonshire Road, Chorley, Lancs, PR7 2DR. Lancashire Mind are registered with the Fundraising Regulator. For all enquiries, call us on 01257 231660.
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