‘Over many years, my work has convinced me of one fundamental truth; without nature we wouldn’t survive, yet without us nature would thrive. This belief has become my mantra and
it’s an approach that I think everyone should take the time to consider deeply. Today, the
importance of our human connection to nature is my driving passion and it’s what keeps me
sane in this chaotic, complicated world of ours. After all, nature quite literally saved my life.’
- Extract from The Nature Remedy.
I was lucky enough to grow up in the leafy town of Harrogate, and as a child the pine woods
were a short bike ride away. My friends and I could often be found running through the
woods, rolling down the grassy hills and climbing and swinging from the trees. It was the
perfect playground and classroom, and I believe this helped cement my love of all things
I started my career in nursing, and I spent my days and nights caring for others with
challenging and complex needs, eventually, after thirteen years this took its toll on my own
health and I found myself struggling with juggling work, a young family and my own
wellbeing. I often turned to walking, and just being, in nearby fields and woodland after a
tough shift at work and my garden quickly became my sanctuary.
The turning point for me came when I changed my career and followed my passion which
was plants, I had a small garden at the time but it was jammed full of weird and wonderful
plants all having one thing in common; they all had medicinal uses. I was fascinated with our
relationship with plants and the health benefits that came from using them medicinally. I
started working with plants and people at a local charity called Horticap, and from here
things just snowballed...
The opportunity had presented itself to me, you could say right place, right time, you could
also say that perhaps fate stepped in, I found myself handing my notice in and plunging
green fingers first into the start of my horticultural career with a charity that were willing to
give me a job and help me through retraining. This amazing opportunity was the start of the
most magnificent bright white snowball for me and I still pinch myself today.
I remember clearly the moment when the realisation of my life change hit me, I hadn’t been
in my new career very long and it was the end of the working day, we were finishing off in
the greenhouses and I was watering the hundreds of tiny plants that we had carefully
transplanted into bigger trays. Everything was fresh and green, the smell in the air was one
that was healthy, damp and lush. The greenhouse was warm and although I was tired from
the day I was happy, calm and relaxed. It was quite simple, there I was, my passion had
actually become my work, I was surrounded by nature, I was in the healthiest environment I
could possibly be in and I was feeling not just good but great!
I had reconnected, not just with the natural world that I loved so much but with those
around me and most importantly I reconnected with myself. Since that day, the deeper I
have delved into our natural world and all it offers us, the deeper my connections have
grown, my life pace is much slower and richer, and life has become so much more
meaningful for me. Our natural world is the most incredible gift for all of us, it not only
supports our health and wellbeing it also has this curious ability to help us to reconnect with
ourselves and by doing so we discover what really makes our hearts sing.
During this transition my family moved out of Harrogate and into a small village near Bedale
and I again this snowball took me to a job I could have only dreamed of having. My biggest
passion of all – Trees! I ended up with the job of curator at Thorp Perrow Arboretum, which
was within a stone throw of the village where we lived. I found myself spending my days
hanging out in 100 acres of woodland, I soon moved onto the estate and into the woods
where I landed with a bit of a bump.
I’d been at my role in the arboretum for some time, when somewhere along the way I found
myself in an abusive relationship. I was struggling to cope with everything that was
happening to me and appearing ‘normal’, as many people do in these situations, was
becoming increasingly difficult. Once again, I turned to nature for comfort and I started
practising mindfulness in nature as a way of coping. I truly believe that nature helped me to
gain the courage I needed to get out of the damaging situation I had found myself in and
rebuild my life. It wasn’t easy and I was stalked and terrorised for a number of months after I
ended the relationship, but it all came to an end, and along the way I had found myself
thrown into using the natural world as my own medicine. I soon realised that what I’d been
doing could help others too.
I’d read an article about Forest Bathing, and I wanted to know more about the studies and
the science behind it all. There was next to nothing in this country to be found and all the
information I could find was in Japan and a little in America. The more I researched the more
I realised this is what I had been doing and this is why I was happy and healthier than ever.
At the time I was also working for the charity, Help for Heroes and they were starting to
develop a health and wellbeing course and mindfulness was becoming a useful aid to all
involved. I offered Forest Bathing sessions and the feedback was amazing, very soon I
realised that it wasn’t just me feeling these amazing benefits from simply hanging out in the
woods, it was felt by others too. Soon I was running sessions for all kinds of people and I
quickly realised that it wasn’t just woods and trees that had benefits. It seemed that, all
natural environments had some kind of effect on humans and I was itching to learn more
and I wanted to share with anyone that would listen.
Science tells us that nature is good for us in so many ways, we have studies upon studies
telling us that we find physical relief and restoration from simply being outside; our blood
pressure drops, our heart rate slows, our breath changes, pain can be reduced and our
immune systems are boosted and enhanced. Mentally we feel calmer, stress is reduced, we
sleep better, things become clearer and we feel more joyful and happier. My feeling is that
whilst it’s great to have these studies to ‘prove’ we also have a knowing, we know what
supports us, we know what helps us feel good, feel better, feel happier. When we need
space to reconnect, find ourselves or to feel or to simply just be; we can simply go outside
and allow, allow Mother Nature to take hold of us and do what she’s so good at.
The natural world has always and will always be my sanctuary, my go to place when I’m
having a wobble, feeling stressed, lack clarity or I’m feeling anxious. It’s a place that has been there for all of us since the very beginning, and right now is a welcome relief from these puzzling and overwhelming times.
Mother Nature holds space for us in a way nothing else can, with her non-judgmental,
nurturing influence she has the ability to soothe and calm even the busiest and complicated
of minds, she holds our pain, our suffering and our grief with a gentle embrace that
stretches as far as the imagination allows. She allows us to feel a connection that at the
moment is so needed, at a time when we may feel disconnected from our loved ones, our
friends, our life as it was and perhaps even ourselves, she reminds us that we are all still
connected, everything is connected, life is connected and although experiences are different
it is all very much the same.
My book, The Nature Remedy, is a human’s guide to nature, our relationship with, and the
benefits and positive effects that we can gain from it, if we slow down, take notice and allow.
You could be forgiven for thinking it all a little bit ‘woo-woo’, but this stuff is factual and
backed up by science and it all goes back to the very beginning of our planet.
The more people I meet and the more I hear about society all over the world, the more I
believe humans have become tragically disconnected. Mental health problems and stress
are on the increase for us all – young and old. We need nature, we are a crucial part of it and
the sooner we reconnect and embrace this, the sooner we will regain balance in life.
It simply starts with the sky above our heads and the ground beneath our feet, it can be all
too easy to miss the wonder that surrounds each and every one of us every single day, so
today I live by these simple precepts;
Go out in nature every day – this could be a walk in the park or the walk to work; it could
just mean simply stepping outside your front door or opening your window to breathe.
Every day be mindful in nature – Switch on your senses, listen and look at your surroundings.
Let everything else melt away and feel that relief – even if it is just for a moment.
Every day say thank you to nature – To have gratitude for something to which we are so
deeply connected brings an appreciation for all life like no other.
I make Nature a habit.
The seasons come and go and the weather just seems to happen, the flowers bloom, insects
go about their business, and the birds sing, we go about our daily lives with seemingly little
awareness to our natural surroundings and what our connection really means.
Quite simply put - it means life.
Twitter Faith Douglas @ThorpPerrow
Twitter Forestbathing UK @forestbathinguk