We learn by observing others, receiving formal instruction, and reading and exploring on our own. The mere act of living and interacting with others provides experiences that challenge us and encourage us to think, grow, and ask questions.
But there's another very powerful entity that can teach us how to live a happier, healthier, and more meaningful life. It's the natural world. Not only can observing and being in nature spark fantastic, important, creative work from people such as philosophers, scientists, and artists, but it can also offer lessons for basic living: how to be healthy, how to be calm, and how to find balance, for instance.
The problem is, we've forgotten that the world is out there to teach us. We don't spend as much time outdoors as previous generations did. In fact, a famous study out of University of Illinois, Chicago, found that we spend about 25% less time outside now than we did in the late 1980s. (Read more about the study here.) That's unfortunate, because nature serves as a magnificent classroom.
Here are three profound lessons we can learn from merely spending time outside.
Lesson #1: Love is all around you.
When you wake up in the morning, go outside with a sense of appreciation for all that you've been blessed with. If a hummingbird or a deer catches your eye, stop and enjoy your connection to the animal. If a flower is about to bloom, take a moment to recognize the growth and change happening before your eyes. By simply taking the time to appreciate nature, you will learn to love the world around you. When we allow ourselves to feel love for life itself, it opens up our heart to loving ourselves and others as well.
Lesson #2: There's peace in chaos.
Sit quietly outside, whether it's by the ocean or in the middle of the woods, and take in as much as you can through your five senses. When we pay attention to the natural world, we realize there's a lot going on. It's full of contradictions: it's simple and complicated, orderly and messy, quiet and busy. When we're able to practice this awareness and see the dynamic energy flowing around us, it becomes difficult to worry about that work presentation due next week or cooking dinner for friends this weekend. Once we can really internalize the power of the world around us, we can face every obstacle, big and small. This sense of peace arises from the realization that we are a part of something much larger than ourselves. In this state of mind, it's very difficult to become overwhelmed--at least in the negative sense.
Lesson #3: Life is without limits.
We don't have to live lives limited by fear, anger, ill health, or self-imposed barriers to success. A life beyond limits begins with a few simple thoughts or affirmations of possibility, ones that say "I can. I can take the energy of my good work and thoughts and use them to live a simple yet extraordinary life beyond any limits I have felt before." We see the "impossible" take place over and over in the natural world, but we often take it for granted. For example, a leaf transforms the invisible energy of the sun into nourishment. Go outside and witness the "impossible." Then use these simple yet profound events happening every moment of the day as a model for your own ability to transform your life.