WHY HOLIDAYS MATTER?

Have you ever wondered why, when the holidays begin, the concrete cities and suburbs almost completely empty? Where does everyone go? And why do they go to wherever it is they are going? Holidays MATTER, and for a reason you might not expect.

When the pressure is off and the commitments are few(er). When there is no school, no studies and no work, it’s time to get away from it all.

Holiday time is an opportunity to ‘recharge the engines’, put your feet up, explore something new.

All of this should sound familiar. But the most interesting thing about people’s use of holiday time is where they go!

The destination for our holidays tells us something very important about ourselves. Something critically important to our overall health and well-being and a closer look at this picture reveals something very VERY important about our nature. 

THE TOP 10  THINGS TO SEE IN AUSTRALIA!

For tourists to Australia, what do you think are the TOP 5 (rated) tourist locations that are most visited?

  • Sydney Opera House.
  • Great Barrier Reef Marine Park.
  • Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park.
  • Sydney Harbour Bridge.
  • Blue Mountains National Park.

Two of these options are structural wonders. Three of the five are encounters with nature!

But if you ask a different question like, ‘What is the best thing to experience in Australia?’ you get a different list:

  • Great Barrier Reef.
  • Daintree Rainforest.
  • Fraser Island.
  • Whitsundays.
  • Blue Mountains National Park.

And what do all of these responses share in common? All of these are experiences in nature.

For locals, where do most Australian’s go to ‘get away’ from it all during their holidays? You guessed it. Any place where the outdoors and the natural world will play a major role in the daily activities of fun, freedom and relaxation.

We flock to beaches, coastal holiday homes, chalets in the forest, camping by river inlets and much more.

You know what I’m talking about. Every West Australian knows (and I’m sure every Australian state has a similar story to share) what the roads look like leading up to and at the end of the holiday period. In a word: BUSY!

Overwhelmingly, the majority of Australian suburban families spend their ‘down time’ in nature.

Why?

It’s not just because, by definition, ‘getting away from it’ means leaving the suburbs for somewhere else that is not the suburbs. The reason is far deeper and way more important.

Biophilia

to The term “biophilia” literally means a “love of life.”

This term was first used by Erich Fromm to describe the psychological orientation of being attracted to all that is alive and vital.

Fromm spent a lifetime exploring the way in which human beings subconsciously seek out connections with life: natural landscapes, sunsets, forested areas, other people, cats!

It is a fact that most people experience positive feelings towards organisms, species, habitats, processes and objects in their natural surroundings.

It’s why people will put their life on the line to save an old growth forest, risk their lives to save domestic or wild animals, keep plants, bees or flowers or yes, even keep a cat.

More recently, the scientific literature on the positive effect spending time in nature has on our general health and well-being, including our mental, social and spiritual health is piling up!

The idea that nature is a modern wonder drug is no longer pseudo science, a fad or a crazy hypothesis. It’s good science.

For example, spending time in nature activates the vagus nerve which interfaces with the parasympathetic control of the heart, lungs, and digestive tract. In other words, being in nature induces calm and regeneration. Good science.

Spending one day walking in the woods of a forest will increase the number of natural killer cells (yes that is what they’re called) in the blood stream by up to 40%. The effect of this? Your bodies ability to fight cells infected by a virus is increased. Yep, science.

Not a bad outcome for simply going for a FREE walk in the forest.

Sure, we humans have shrugged off the Woolly Mammoth dressing gown in favour of a plush polyester fleece but we are, AND REMAIN, the product of biological evolution.

Incidentally I do love a good fleece. They are adorably soft and incredibly warm but make sure you get a good one because cheap fleece bobbles after a few washes.

So why this rant?

If you are already one of those people who regularly frolic in nature or who head to the country to ‘get away from it all’ then good for you, keep it up and I have a tip! (See TIP 1).

If you are not one of those people already then get busy fixing this part of your life. NOW!

And here are my tip for both types of people.

TIP 1:

You can’t simply reap the benefits of being in nature just by skirting around the edges. And if you want to maximise the benefits of being in nature then you have to BE IN NATURE. And the word ‘being’ here is a verb!

When in nature you have to ‘DO’. You have to participate. You have to get all of your senses involved. You have to be still. Breathe. Feel your surrounds. Use your imagination to connect and realise that you and the earth share a connection.

As Tyler Durden would say:

“You are not special. You’re not a beautiful and unique snowflake. You’re the same decaying organic matter as everything else. We’re all part of the same compost heap. We’re all singing, all dancing crap of the world.”*

Being a participant in nature, and not simply watching it from your balcony, allows your body, your intentions and the world around you to experience a connection. A deeper connection that has meaning AND significance. Something you cannot achieve if nature is simply the background for doing something else.

*Just on case you were wondering, I do happen to think that you ARE a special and unique snowflake.

TIP 2:

Nature can be a little hard to find these days but you don’t have to go to some exotic far away place to reap the benefits of being in mother Earth’s healthy embrace. A local park, a local walk trail, a sit by a river, a swim at the beach. All of these places are great options and all of it is close by, accessible and free.

So go find some nature and then do TIP 1.

IN CLOSING:

Holidays don’t matter simply because they give us an opportunity to take a break from the day-to-day. Holidays reveal what actually MATTERS. And here I’m using ‘matter’ in the material sense of the word.

Meaning, matter as the substance that occupies physical space, particles, things with mass and size and made up of combinations of atoms meaning of word ‘matter’.

Because WE ARE MATTER. And it turns out the relationship between ALL MATTER is very VERY important.

Of course we all know this. Deep in our DNA the reason why we flock to natural spaces in the holidays  is because we feel the need to connect. We feel it so strongly that when it comes time to choosing the next place to go we instinctively stick a ‘pin’ in that shack by the beach!

So the next time your holidaying in nature, make sure you do some DOING (TIP 1) and really let nature work her magic on you.

FURTHER READING:

If you are interested in reading around this subject, then I recommend:  The Biophilia Effect: A Scientific and Spiritual Exploration of the Healing Bond Between Humans and Nature

Damien Norris is the founder and senior whole-body movement and lifestyle coach at The Wilding Project (LINK), Perth Western Australia.

Recently featured in TEDxPerth (LINK), Damien teaches children, young people, adults and seniors how to move and live a full life!

Olympic Fun & Fitness and The Wilding Project like Rewilding is dedicated to a movement rich life. Programs like Gymnastics, GymFIT, FootyEDGE, Parkour, Workplace Athletes, ActiveAgers and more all follow a simple philosophy, “Learn to move well and then never stop.”

Damien Norris