Megan Shumake, LCSW, completed both her Bachelor of Arts degree and Master of Social Work degree at Baylor University in Waco, TX. In 2008, she started her career in community mental health in both clinic and school-based settings, but her most recent experience is in providing trauma care at a Children’s Advocacy Center.
The days are getting longer, temperatures are warming, and twigs that looked long dead are bursting with life again. There is evidence of spring all around.
Right from the beginning, Scripture gives account of God in the garden. Genesis 2 tells us “The Lord planted a garden and placed man in it.” It was our first home. From the ground God grew “every tree pleasing in appearance and good for food” (Gen 2:9). God’s gift to us of trees and plants is not only in the food they provide, but also in their pleasing appearance. He gives us the gift of beauty.
In enjoying nature, we find rest.
In nature, what we know as a gift from our Creator has also been connected to mental health benefits through many years of research. Two theories have been supported with significant evidence that help us understand nature’s role in restoring our mental health. One theory, attention-restoration theory, suggests that being in green spaces, particularly gardens, is helpful in restoring attention and increasing problem-solving abilities. Another theory, psycho-physiological stress reduction theory, posits that we are naturally inclined to find non-threatening natural environments soothing, and when we encounter such an environment, our bodies experience rest and restoration (Clatworthy, et. al., 2013). How wonderful that what God created for us to enjoy is shown through research to promote and provide rest!
In nature we connect with God and others.
As an additional mental health benefit, our time in natural spaces also offers us connection. Sometimes this connection is to other people we may encounter while outdoors. Being outdoors provides a great opportunity to interact with neighbors on your street, families in the park, or friends on the trail. But so often the connection we experience is to our Creator as evidence of His work fills our senses. The ever-changing, ever-growing condition of the natural world provides opportunities to experience God in new ways. For we know that “His invisible attributes, that is His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen since the creation of the world, being understood through what He has made” (Romans 1:20). Nature connects us to the vastness of God’s created world and allows us to marvel at His works.
I would invite you to go outside and just observe the green space around. Attempt to use all of the senses available to you. See with your eyes the beauty of created life; hear with your ears the wind rustling the leaves and the wildlife alive; smell the sweet aroma of blooms, the grass, the soil; feel the varied textures of leaves, bark, and stone; taste the freshness of the air or a wild honeysuckle bloom.
What a gift God has given to every one of us through the beauty of His creation. Get outdoors and soak up the green spaces around you. Enjoy. Rest. Connect.
Clatworthy, Jane, Joe Hinds, and Paul M. Camic. “Gardening as a Mental Health Intervention: A Review.” Mental Health Review Journal 18, no. 4 (November 29, 2013): 214–25. https://doi. org/10.1108/MHRJ-02-2013-0007.