Archive for January, 2018

I am not really a New Year’s resolution person, but an article  and book by Bronnie Ware got me thinking that there are some resolutions really worth making and keeping. A palliative care nurse of longstanding, Bronnie has accompanied many people through the last weeks of their lives. Many of these times, she says were “incredibly special” – times of growth and positive change as well as times of emotional distress.

It was Bronnie’s practice to ask her patients about any regrets they had or anything they would do differently. She found that five themes repeatedly came through the replies:

  • I wish I’d the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
  • I wish I hadn’t worked so hard (A regret from almost every male patient).
  • I wish I’d the courage to express my feelings.
  • I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
  • I wish that I had let myself be happier.

It is easy to draw personal resolutions of real substance and significance from each of these themes. When I did this for myself, I also had in mind a comment my friend Tory Hughes made when I asked her why people were retreating from nature and missing out on so much pleasure, happiness, personal fulfilment and friendship as a result. According to Tory, it is because people have difficulty giving themselves permission to do otherwise. Real and perceived work, social and family obligations and pressures get in the way of doing things that really matter for oneself (and those dear to us), including connecting with nature.

In addition to identifying the obvious general guidelines that are suggested by the themes, I also pondered how the themes could help us rethink our day-to-day relationship with nature. The result is a kind of personal mission statement.

I give myself permission to:

  • acknowledge my need for nature and to give priority to meeting that need;
  • work less and “play” more in natural environments (especially with my family and friends);
  • find emotional stimulation and expressive outlets in nature;
  • spend more leisure time with others in natural settings; and
  • find pleasure and joy in natural places and the things of nature.

I sometimes think that sharing such thoughts – with a view to promoting engagement with nature – is as productive as whistling in the wind. But then along comes evidence that restores my belief that people’s desire for nature, though muted in many cases, is alive and well.

Just this week, for example, the press carried a report of a government survey which asked participants, all drawn from across the suburbs of Sydney, to rank the characteristics of their area that they most valued.

The areas surveyed differed markedly in the mix of built and green spaces, some were much more endowed with urban bushland or parks. But across all areas, the attribute most valued was “elements of the natural environment”, or the areas natural features such as views, vegetation, topography, water and wildlife. Not surprisingly, this attribute was most likely to top the list in the best endowed areas.

These findings echo those of many other similar surveys, all sending the clear message – people want to have nature in their lives. Even though they may not always realise it, this desire is part of their genetic heritage, a universal urge prompting them to seek that which is their birthright.

Happy New Year in and out of nature.



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