Have we ever experienced a time where, as a collective, we have been called to our homes more than now? To staying inside and to keeping to our own space and homes? In this blog, I’m interested in exploring how that space serves us, and how can it facilitate connection and care.
I am very drawn to the notion of sacred space, and looking at all of the different ways that I can create it within my own home. I’ve always wanted my home to feel like a reflection of me and everything that I love and to have elements of coziness, comfort and beauty. For me, this means bringing nature inside.
Nature therapy, forest bathing and other forms of connecting to Earth have become popular topics in our world as we grapple with suburban living, climate change and capitalist-consumerist culture. Science continues to prove what we intuitively feel- that time in nature is beneficial for our physical and mental health. But what about when we aren’t off in what we delineate as being “nature”? After all, aren’t we still nature just as we are?
I have come to believe that bringing nature into our homes is another form of reconnection and remembering. That it can be its own form of therapy, and that it can be especially comforting during these challenging times.
When we bring nature into our home we remember that a connection with the Earth does not have to happen outside of ourselves. In fact, it can remind us that looking for nature in a park or wildlife reserve really misses the point. Not everyone has access to these spaces or the resources to pay for adventures in wilderness areas, but we are all still nature and we all have an inherent right to be connected with and comforted by that relationship. By bringing elements of nature into the spaces we eat, sleep, rest, live, thrive and dream in, we begin to remember that nature was never outside of us to begin with. We not only see the patterns and forms of nature around us every day, but we can notice how those same patterns and forms occur in ourselves and our relationships. We remember that nature is not an external goal or place outside of ourselves, and that it never will be. While outdoor spaces are undoubtedly healing, they are also within us. We are the Earth and the Earth is us. I truly believe that by bringing nature into our most intimate spaces, we can bring nature back into our fabric of being. We can more easily let go of the perceived separation between skin and sky.
So how do we bring nature into the home and into our hearts?
Anyone who knows me knows that I have a house full of plants, and that I’m not slowing down anytime soon. It’s simply because nothing makes me feel as connected to Earth and my own existence as caring for these green beings.
Research has shown that there is a bacterium in soil, Mycobacterium vaccae, that acts as a natural antidepressant. It increases the release and metabolism of serotonin, thus improving our emotional and immune health (Grant 2021). I’ve noticed this when repotting my own house plants. I tend to opt for gloves off and hands in the dirt, as I find something about it to be very soothing. I think I have Mycobacterium vaccae to thank. So, get your hands in the soil! Remember that soil is also a living, breathing part of our planet, and watch how caring for healthy soil can facilitate healthy forms of life through greenery in your home.
Plants have also been shown to reduce physical discomfort symptoms, make us feel calmer, improve our mood, and increase attention, innovation, creativity and problem solving (Cooper 2020). Beyond the research, I do notice positive effects simply by being around my plants. As I watch them grow and change, I find myself celebrating their blooms and new leaves. I am always filled with joy when they come back alive after seeming to be on their way out. I notice how they go through their own cycles and change through the seasons. I feel proud and happy to be caring for a living being and watching them thrive. I can see all of these patterns reflected in my own life and path, and I feel pleased to get to know a species other than myself.
Plants bring a sense of awe into our homes on a daily basis without having to go out and “search for it”. They make us feel a sense of wonder and the enchantment of the natural world. It goes beyond feeling good- feeling awe has been shown to inspire creativity and patience, make people feel less stressed and reduce the risk of illness (Augustin 2015). I find that house plants make a home feel restorative, rejuvenating and vibrant – what more could we want?
I also realize that plants are not always affordable and accessible, and that houseplants will not make sense or be possible for everyone. There are other ways we can connect with nature in our abodes as well. It doesn’t need to be complicated or expensive. It only needs to give you that feeling of coming back to the truth of your interconnection with other beings and to provide a sense of awe, wonder or enchantment.
One way that you can look at bringing nature into your home is through the different elements of earth, wind, fire and air. You can fill your home with various materials or activities that speak to these elements and their qualities. For Fire, you could light candles or designate a sunny spot to sit in and soak up the light. For Air, you could diffuse natural oils that remind you of being in your favourite nature spots. For Water, you could incorporate a small water feature or practice being grateful for the water you use to shower or bathe in. For Earth, you might keep some unique and beautiful stones that you’ve found around your home.
We can also focus on aligning the nature in our homes with the seasons as they evolve and change, and by noticing how we change and evolve with them. This is one of my favourite ways to connect with nature all year long within my own space. In the winter, it usually looks like a lot of baths, mugs of tea and plenty of candles. It’s a time of cozying up and resting. In the fall, I love to keep a pumpkin or two in the house. Even bringing local and seasonal foods into our home can help us to re-centre in this connection and to honour that we also move through phases and cycles (and that it is perfectly natural to do so).
You can try to bring nature connection into your home through your different senses- playing nature sounds or having stones or feathers to touch. I have a rattle snake skin that I found on a trail and they have a permanent place on my coffee table. We can also aim to fill our homes with natural colours. Consider blues and greens. They have been shown to be the most restful colours for us, to reduce stress and to make us less anxious (Li 2018).
Whatever represents nature for you works. Ultimately, any nature connection is really about reminding you that you are nature. There is no separation- even when the walls of our homes separate us from what we deem to be the outdoors. It is about getting back to the awareness that every breath you breathe is part of the breath of all living things- being recycled and moved and giving life to all beings including you. It is returning to that feeling that there is no separation between your skin and the entire ecosystem around you.
Surrounding ourselves with life that goes beyond what we perceive to be our individual selves is so helpful in coming back to this wisdom. As Julia Plevin writes in The Healing Magic of Forest Bathing, “Being surrounded by aliveness literally makes us feel more alive” (Plevin 2019). We are nature and we will always be nature. Having elements of that connection in our homes can be a radical act of remembering this truth and working towards building systems that protect and honour it.
I want to finish with an example of this from my own home and experience. I was having a rough day- feeling anxious and grieving a loved one who we had recently lost. I had been crying (a lot- you know that dry heaving, can’t talk type of crying), so I decided to take a hot shower as I was at a loss of what would make me feel better. As I got in the shower, I instantly felt relief as the water poured over my body. This haiku sprang into my mind…
nature is here now
even holy water flows
through my shower tap
There is no separation. Only interconnection. There is no individual. Only the collective. Our homes can be an honouring of that truth, and a sacred space to return us to this wisdom and to comfort us as we navigate a changing world. Our physical space needs us to reflect this so that we can rebuild our society to be a society that cares for the collective ecosystem. To rebuild effectively, we must start from our roots. In so many ways, our homes are representations of our roots. They are our solid foundations. With that in mind, the home is a great place to start.
It’s important to note that indoor nature connection is only truly beneficial for the collective (you, me, the Earth) if it is created respectfully and sustainably. Before you buy soil at a garden centre, ask yourself where it’s coming from. If it contains peat, it’s important to recognize that peat mining can result in wetland and forest destruction along with increased Greenhouse Gas Emissions. As a Canadian who loves indoor gardening (around ¼ of peatlands are in Canada), this is something I’m definitely paying more attention to. The same goes for plants themselves! Are they being grown sustainably and without disrupting local ecosystems? It’s all interconnected after all, so I encourage everyone to be cognizant of this when creating an indoor sacred space. If you would like to go further, here’s a petition to Canada’s Minister of Environment and Climate Change that requests a review of all new peat mines in Canada - https://www.wildernesscommittee.org/take-action/canada-needs-climate-review-new-peat-mines?utm_source=root&utm_campaign=ea542d9cbd-Canada%20needs%20to%20review%20peat%20mining_2021&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_f26346b88d-ea542d9cbd-99096073.
1. Augustin, Sally. (October 12, 2015). The Power of Awe. Psychology Today https://www.psychologytoday.com/intl/blog/people-places-and-things/201510/the-power-awe
2. Cooper, Katie. (October 13, 2020) Plant Therapy: Why an Indoor Green Oasis Can Improve Your Mental and Emotional Wellbeing Hardcover. Hardie Grant.
3. Grant, Bonnie L. (2021) Antidepressant Microbes In Soil: How Dirt Makes You Happy. Gardening Know How.
4. Li, Dr. Qing. (April 17, 2018). Forest Bathing: How Trees Can Help You Find Health and Happiness. Penguin Life; Illustrated edition.
5. Plevin, Julia. (March 5, 2019). The Healing Magic of Forest Bathing: Finding Calm, Creativity, and Connection in the Natural World. Ten Speed Press; Illustrated edition.