Updated: Feb 28, 2019
“Look deep into nature and you will understand everything”
“L-arti hija l-gidba li tgħid il-verità”
As Malta navigates its new role in the global stage - from policy reform to refugee crisis on its shores, the outdoors present as it always has an oasis of tranquility and a place to recharge – after all, humans are byproducts of mother Earth.
Approximately one-fifth of the Maltese islands are urbanised. Here goes an invitation to LGBTQI individuals that (1) might be the outdoorsy type but not necessarily into water sports, (2) might be wondering what is there to do while business entrepreneurs catch up and start launching safe spaces. Spaces where the community can engage in intellectually stimulating conversations and also the ones where boys and girls who want to have fun dancing may also melt into the tunes of serious techno tunes with Mediterranean flair, last but not least, (3) might want to explore those 4/5 of non-urbanised territory that screams to be explored.
All and all, the countryside never fails to surprise its visitors. Who knew one could get more from trees than just oxygen?
Person-environment studies researchers in particular have insisted that the physical and psychological problems of modern society are associated with the disconnection between human beings and their natural environment.
Placing people apart from nature disrupts our connection with nature and can lead to negative impacts on wellbeing (Wilson and Kellert, 1993).
In 1980, the Ghadira wetland area was made a permanent nature reserve and it makes a great destination for a day hike outing. Air Malta highlights Dingli, Fawwara, Wied iż-Żurrieq trails - filled with pre-historic sites. There are lush valleys across the Malta, Gozo with its San Blas valley and tiny Comino with its breathtaking views. All of them ready to be visited and mindfully utilized for internal refreshing, positively impacting mental, physical and emotional health by reducing stress.
A 2011 study in the Scandinavian Journal of Forest Research showed that mood and cognitive function improved as a result of walking in a green space compared with an urban environment.
Here are a couple of suggestions in taking advantage of the endless possibilities the countryside offers and what to do once you access them:
Be curious. Simply walk and spend time in green spaces exploring the changing colors of the seasons, the terrain, and the animal life in these areas (Maltese goats, Maltese wall lizards, different bird species running free). Actively listen to the sound of the wind blowing, of birds chirping, blue spaces (creeks, water features). Touch the trees and rocks along your walk. This easy practice can have a therapeutic effect by allowing you to appreciate the gifts of nature. It can activate feel good chemicals in your brain and thus a sense of happiness and joy.
A special feature on The Environmental Health and Preventive Medicine medical journal (2009) presents reduction of stress and increased relaxation using salivary cortisol and cerebral activity as indicators of the beneficial effects of taking in green spaces atmosphere.
Focus on your breathing and sensations of walking. This a good and powerful mindfulness practice. When following your breathing and the movement of your limbs, head and shoulders as you walk creates a mental anchor. This anchor allows for the brain activity to slow down and allow for an improvement in mood state.
Lowering your brain activity through these tactics creates mental space to practice gentle self-awareness. It allows you to scan your body, identify areas of tension and by acknowledging, make space to mindfully engage in your current activity.
Nature-connectedness can be built through internal awareness, and attention to self and place (Horesh, 1998, Cloke and Jones, 2003, Mayer and Frantz, 2005, Nisbet et al., 2009, Leary and Tate, 2007, Howell et al., 2011, Wilson, 2011, Richardson and Hallam, 2013).
Grab your favorite backpack, throw snacks, a couple water bottles and explore, learn, and embrace the recharging quality of the vast lush green fields the archipelago has got for you. Be mindful to it. Introduce yourself to the woodland and ask for permission to enter.
Building on Einstein’s sage words, I invite you to embrace the spectacular geological diversity, visit them and submerge into its sounds, smells, and sights. Embrace its soothing effect in your physiology. Anchor your mind in your breathing and your body sensations as you journey through nature. By welcoming the opportunity for self-examination, you will gain understanding and clarity about your being.
My question to you is this: Would you prefer to stay running in endless circles of negative thoughts and anxiety-ridden days of our urban jungle? OR to immerse in the natural beauty that surrounds us to feel refreshed, relaxed and more comfortable in your own skin?
Catalyst. Mindful Nomad. Advocate. Pure Essence.
Henry is a social researcher, and fluent in English, Portuguese and Spanish. He is a public relations veteran, creating magnetic, distinctive brand identities and building relationships for organizations and individuals. A multi-local globalized citizen. Get in touch with Henry if you are in need of innovative, though-provoking content.