Lately I have often found on Fb the “news” that psychologists would recommend walks in Nature, especially in the woods, as a substitute for antidepressants. I have to admit it, I never deepened the question, I am a bit skeptical to all sites that report generic informations (for example, for years it periodically pops-up the news that in Sweden the daily working hours will decrease from 8 to 6 and, living there, I assure you that it is not true!), and even if a psychologist or more had actually made such a statement, it is not said that the whole medical class will move in that direction. But I like to think that it will happen, I hope so, because I truly believe that it would help many to overcome not only the depression, but also all the small daily problems, the worries and concerns that afflict our lives.
When I had to present the Wandering Italia project to a hundred young boys, aged 11 to 15 years, at the Malmö International School, and learning that some of them already suffer from depression, I felt the huge responsibility of sending a strong, clear, different message. If on one hand I did not want, and I could not, encourage them to leave everything behind and think only about themselves (at that age they would have received the message in the wrong way), on the other end I tried to let them understand why, for me, we end up entering the situation of decompensation, or disequilibrium, which leads us to the depression.
According to a research conducted in 2018 by the Common Sense Media on a sample of 1000 adolescents between the ages of 13 and 17, I found datas somehow disturbing: 35% of them prefer to contact friends through the virtual (chat, socials , sms) than meet them in real life. And if it is true that 70-75% of teenagers are already equipped with a smartphone, it is clear, not only that they are increasingly isolated, but that what they find on the web certainly has a huge impact on them, because it sets the standards of life, fashions, and what they must aim to be happy, satisfied, important, rich and famous. At that age we know, it’s very easy to be influenced and affected by others, and each generation has grown up with its own idols and “goals” which, in the end, are those standards imposed by the media, always so far from the real world. But now, finding ourselves more and more isolated and far from reality because glued to a screen, and this also applies to adults, I think another problem arises: we are isolated, but we are never alone.
Loneliness is essential to know ourselves, to listen and talk to ourselves, to understand what we really want. We can not be comfortable with others if we do not first learn to be comfortable with ourselves, and for this we must be alone, away from everything and everyone, where we can no longer pretend to be who we are not. And there, above all, where we no longer have to wear that mask to show to others just to avoid to become an outcast, only because outside from the “common” reality.
And this is why I think that a walk in Nature, without a mobile phone or any other distraction, alone in the good company of our thoughts, is vital: because it offers us the opportunity to be ourselves, to don’t feel judged, to don’t feel inferior to nobody else just because we have a different vision of life, only because we like something else.
Apart from the beneficial effects that Nature offers simply because it takes us away from smog, noise and electromagnetic pollution, it offers so many other advantages. Because Nature welcomes, Nature lets us calm down, slows our breath and our thoughts down. In Nature we find creativity, we reduce stress, we improve our memory. And in Nature we can be ourselves, without any pretence, and we can find our vital energy, the most real, because, in fact, our only.
In order not to be depressed and unhappy, we do not need medicines that flatten our emotions. We need to be ourselves. And to feel alive.