The impact of changing environments on our experience

Recently I was in Italy because my son was playing an international soccer tournament. These are always very intensive days. Not only for the boys in the field, also for the parents. Pressure and expectations are high. We as parents have a minimal role, the children are part of a team guided by the trainer. Giving us only some minutes a day to spend and connect with them. Trying to guide your child to deal with the pressure in only five minutes is like a pressure cooker. Not easy. 

During these days we always try to combine watching the games, and being immersed in the competitive ambiance, with visiting villages and cities in the neigbourhood. This time we were lucky. Venice, Verone, Vicenza and Milan were close. The last day we went to visit the Fondazione Prada in Milan, a museum of contemporary art. An impressive one.

Impressive was the art being exposed but most impact made the use of the spaces. Climbing a staircases of cement, entering a sober room with just one subject; was striking. Being invited to enter a tunnel, dark and with lots of surprising corners, leaving you totally disoriented and then; entering a room full of incredibly red mushrooms hanging on the ceiling. Boom! Touched to the core. 

The impact to connect to self and purpose

Being there was an experience and I realised once again the importance of changing environments, perspective. How nourishing this is for us. Just as we needed a break from the soccer tournament, refocus the attention, the variation of spaces in the museum added so much more. Stepping out of the context, and surrender, invites us to drop our roles and being touched deep inside.  

In daily life we are easily absorpted by tasks we do on autopilot. Very necessary and important. Not realising though that in our fast paced world, alienation from our natural self is a real risk. Having the strength to step outside, taking some time for yourself is a difficult one. This is what I also notice when people tell about the decision process to go or not on a retreat. There is never a week with no appointments in the agenda, there are always many reasons not to take the step to really unplug. To disconnect from the routine is tough.

But isn’t it just as important to create space to connect to your true self? Changing environments and connecting to our purpose.

Scientific research on the impact of nature

There is growing evidence to suggest that exposure to natural environments can be associated with mental health benefits. Proximity to greenspace has been associated with lower levels of stress. People exposed to urban environments are forced to use their attention to overcome the effects of constant stimulation, and this in turn over time induces cognitive fatigue. In contrast, natural environments automatically capture attention while simultaneously eliciting feelings of pleasure.

‘The great outdoors. Exploring the mental health benefits of natural environments’.

Another interesting article aims to address the following questions: how does exposure to nature influence more complex cognitive-emotional processes such as reflecting on a life problem? Is virtual nature as effective as the real thing? And, through what mechanisms does nature have its positive benefits. More of interest, it shows that the impact is not only on well-being and relaxation but even goes beyond. Highlighting the possibility that people gain purpose and meaning in life by feeling an experiential sense of belonging to the natural world.

‘Why is nature beneficial? The role of connectedness to nature’.

Experience it yourself: Mountain Retreat October 13-18

This is also what I experienced while guiding retreats in the past year. The first 2 days people need to disconnect from daily life and patterns. Then they connect more and more to the surrounding nature and to themselves. The impact is powerful. People feel re-energised and more importantly, connected to their purpose. Isn’t that worth those 5 days away from work? I think it is. Changing environment and connecting to our purpose.
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