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Music and the Spoken Word: Moments in nature

POSTED: July 8, 2017 11:00 p.m.
Deseret Connect/

The sun rises over the Wasatch Mountains on April 11, 2002.

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Editor's note: “The Spoken Word” is shared by Lloyd Newell each Sunday during the weekly Mormon Tabernacle Choir broadcast.

“How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives,” and for many of us, that means too much time apart from nature (see "The Writing Life," by Annie Dillard). Surrounded by walls, buildings, and window coverings, we don’t get outside, or even look outside, as much as we could.

Many experts agree that, in general, the more time we spend in nature, the better we do on just about every measure of wellness you can imagine: vitality, happiness, creativity, focus, even kindness and compassion. The benefits are different for each person, but most of us notice that connecting with nature improves our mood and clears our mind.

So much about nature invites us to contemplate life’s meaning and purposes — looking at a horizon gives us a sense of the vastness and grandeur of this Earth; walking in a garden or among trees helps us see life’s continual process of change and growth; and watching the ebb and flow of an ocean tide suggests a rhythmic pattern of highs and lows, always changing but always reliable. In short, the natural world can help us understand and even feel a little better about our place in the universe.

So why don’t we get out more? Perhaps life makes us feel too busy. But the fact is, to get the benefits of nature, we don’t need to become mountaineers or plan an exotic tropical vacation. Even in small portions — going on a short walk, looking out a window, pausing to look at a beautiful sunset, smelling a flower — nature can lift our spirits.

We can find nature where we already are, all around us. All it takes, in most cases, is a brief infusion of beauty, a moment of awe that can help sustain us throughout the day.

As one researcher wrote, “I think we can say pretty certainly that having a little bit of awe every day in your life would make you happier, kinder and more compassionate” (see Paul Piff in Florence Williams' “To Fight the Winter Blues, Try a Dose of Nature,” Wall Street Journal, Jan. 27, 2017). So look for ways to spend some moments, however small, in nature. It can help make your life a little richer, a little better, a little more beautiful.
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