Close your eyes and picture your average day.
It probably looks something like this:
As soon as you wake up, you grab your smartphone and start clicking through the notifications you accumulated as you slept. You get out of bed, brush your teeth, and drive to work, where you park in a concrete garage. You make your way to your fluorescent-lit cubicle and begin answering emails. At noon, you grab lunch and then it’s back at the computer until dark, when you return to your car, drive home, and flip on the TV. Maybe microwave a meal or order Thai food.
Back to bed. Press repeat.
Notably missing from your daily routine? Quality time spent outside.
Just two or three generations ago, people lived a lot closer to nature. We worked outside, played in forests, and held gatherings under trees. We ate natural food directly from the soil, free from chemicals and preservatives.
But today, almost everyone is suffering from “nature deficit disorder.”
We’ve become disconnected from the natural world, and it’s taking a toll on our mental and physical wellbeing. Synthetic diets are making us sick. Urban living is increasing our stress levels. And we aren’t even getting the healthy bacteria we need to strengthen our immune systems.
Here’s why it’s important for us to get back in touch with the natural world:
We’ve lost our connection to the natural world.
Our ancestors’ survival depended on being in touch with nature.
Before the agrarian revolution, we had to hunt, gather, herd, and fish for survival. We needed to understand birdsongs, read the clouds, know the direction of the wind, follow the currents, and identify dangerous prey.
During my four years as a Taoist monk, I learned that like our ancestors, Taoists follow the changes of the seasons, the movement of animals, the properties of plants, and patterns of the skies. We can all learn a thing or two from the Taoist reverence for the natural world. When we walk through a natural environment, we’re bathed in the pure energy of the life around us.
Everywhere else, we encroach, destroy, and pollute. In just a few generations, we’ve developed technologies that have allowed us to isolate ourselves from the natural world and disconnect from life.
We’ve also forgotten how to do really basic things, like build a fire, find food and clean water, and make shelter, which further separates us from nature.
Restoring our connection to the natural world is crucial to physic and physical wellbeing.
We used to eat plants, but now we eat junk that’s made in plants.
The way we eat today isn’t remotely similar to the way our ancestors did.
Today, farmers roll plastic over their fields and inject methyl bromide into the ground. It’s now standard practice to kill everything in the soil, so we can grow more food that’s also dead. Our food today carries less nutrition, no healthy bacteria, and no real life force.
We eat processed pastries, drink milk from cows pumped with hormones, breathe in polluted air, and slather our bodies with creams filled with chemicals we can’t even pronounce.
Essentially, we’re poisoning ourselves, and then we wonder why we feel like shit all the time.
Losing the connection between our bodies and the food we eat has splintered humanity into a mob of zombies frantically looking for cars, purses, diets, pills, or lovers to make us feel happy.
To restore our well-being, we need look no further than the earth beneath us. The soil has harvested life for millions of years and contains the minerals, nutrients, and microbes that make up life itself. If we want to feel our best, we need to start investing in and consuming organic food that comes straight from the ground.
We’ve killed off all the germs, good and bad.
The discovery of germs during the bubonic plagues was ultimately a good thing, as it allowed us to treat diseases and keep people alive. Bad bacteria fester in bad environments, and, yes, there is a need for proper sanitation and drugs to combat outbreaks. But we’ve taken things too far.
Today, we’re killing off the good with the bad. Good bugs fight bad bacteria. But parents don’t even let their kids play outside anymore, which is seriously misguided. Spending time outdoors can actually reduce allergies, strengthen our immune systems, and fill our bodies with calming energy.
We also overuse antibiotics to treat the slightest perceived ailments, in turn creating resilient bacteria that are harder to kill.
Probiotic supplements are being used to restore our good bacteria, but the science is relatively new and no one really understands the complexity of the microbiome.
Imagine reworking your day so that it looks more like this:
When you wake up, instead of immediately reaching for your phone, you get up and do a few yoga poses in the backyard. Then you drive to work with your windows down and soak in the views of the trees. Instead of rushing to the vending machine when you need a work break, you take a walk outside. Maybe you even sit in a grassy space and meditate for a few minutes, or read a book. You catch a pickup basketball game after work, then invite your friends over for a backyard BBQ instead of eating in front of the TV.
The genius of nature is all around us, and the more we can harmonize with it, the happier we’ll be.