Chelsea Flower Show: Why We All Need to Get Back to Nature

Image: RHS Chelsea Flower Show

After the Duchess of Cambridge revealed her ‘Back to Nature’ garden at the Chelsea Flower Show this week, founder of Nature as Nuture and humanistic pschotherapist Claire de Boursac shares why we all need to get back to spending time in our own true nature.

The ‘Back to Nature’ garden co-created by the Duchess of Cambridge is one of the most eagerly anticipated plots at this year’s Chelsea Flower Show.  Kate says her woodland garden has been inspired by her childhood memories of time in nature as well as her knowledge that spending time among the trees has significant benefits to our wellbeing, citing the Japanese practice of ‘forest bathing. ’

As a psychotherapist and nature-wellbeing practitioner her theme excites me.  In my therapy room I see the very real results of the stresses and strains of modern life and during my forest bathing sessions I witness how getting back in touch with nature provides an effective and enjoyable antidote.  I also see how nature is a wise teacher and provides a way back to our own true nature.  

If you haven’t yet heard of forest bathing, it’s a gentle and restorative practice combining mindful walking with ‘invitations’ – simple, guided exercises to help you connect more deeply with yourself and the natural world.  Despite its name – a translation from the Japanese shinrin yoku, forest bathing has nothing to do with swimming but involves bathing in the atmosphere of the forest.  

Forest bathing has been hailed as the latest wellbeing trend.  Research shows that a 2 hour session can significantly reduce stress and anxiety by reducing cortisol levels, lowering heart rate and blood pressure – all without the unwelcome side effects that can come with medication. Time among the trees can also boost our immune system and lead to clearer and more creative thinking.  Even as little as 5 minutes in nature can be enough to move us from a ‘fight and flight’ sate to ‘rest and digest’.  All the science shows that getting back to nature really is a medicine for modern life. I also think there’s something about getting back to our own nature which can happen when we connect with the natural world – evoking childhood memories, inviting our inner child out to play and even enhancing our self-acceptance as we embrace nature in her perfect imperfection. Like Kate, many of us have fond memories of playing in nature as a child.  Although I grew up in London, I spent endless hours in the garden making mud pies, studying the earth worms or creating imaginary worlds among the flowerbeds for the fairies who I believed came out to play at night time.  In wider and wilder spaces I enacted adventures loosely based on Swallows and Amazons or Robin Hood.   Perhaps your own nature-infused memories are stirring as you read this? Spending time in nature as an adult sometimes surfaces these childhood memories, in fact, very often in my forest bathing groups people are surprised and touched by what rises up in them as we venture together among the ancient trees. I hear people talk of how much they adored playing in woods when they were little and then puzzle at how they never make time for this as an adult… until coming to the session that is.  It’s often a moving experience of re-meeting an old friend (nature) and reconnecting to a part of them.

Given permission, our inner child comes out to play in the woods.  I’ve witnessed grown men spontaneously doing forward rolls in the fallen leaves, responsible adults gleefully squelching in muddy puddles-   I see it time and time again and it always delights me.  People often speak of ‘childlike wonder’, ‘freedom’ and ‘playfulness’ when describing their experience of forest bathing.  

Forest bathing is a mindful nature practice.  We purposefully switch off phones and disconnect from the devices linked to our adult roles of responsibility and productivity and that is part of it.   But I also think nature has her part here.  Nature is accepting and permissive.  In nature-based psychotherapy we talk of her as the ideal mother- always there, always available, accepting you just as you are.  On some level we feel this as we spend time in nature.  

Nature is a wise teacher and offers lessons in self-acceptance.  More than once someone in a group has shared that in observing the dead and decaying leaves they make peace with their own aging process and changing appearance – it’s just the cycle of life after all.   A young man shared his experience of having spent time with what he initially judged to be a rather weedy and insignificant little tree, not nearly as impressive as the larger more established ones nearby.  Surprisingly to him, through spending time really looking at the detail of it and seeing it’s uniqueness he began to see its beauty and came to view it as quite wonderful.  He was tearful as he shared this story, and how it had showed him that the same was true of him.  Nature gently taught him self-acceptance.  

So, why not leave your phone behind and take your inner-child for a play in the woods and see what nature has to teach you today?

Nature as Nurture runs regular group and bespoke forest bathing sessions in North London. 

Learn more about forest bathing.

See our favourite eco wellness retreats in the UK.

Read Venetia Falconer‘s guide to breaking up with your phone and taking a digital detox.