As new parents, my wife and I often ask ourselves: “What did we used to do with our time before we had kids?!”
Educators might ask the same thing about email: “What did we used to with our time before we had email?!”
I wonder if that’s when intellectual conversations and debates were had between colleagues. I wonder if this is when books were read and letters were penned? I wonder if that’s when teachers worked on their subject knowledge, and designed and wrote their own curriculum? I wonder if this was when teachers were able to occasionally go for a stroll, to relax and refresh?
I grew up with a Mum who was a teacher in the 70s, 80s and 90s. So I know that those times TBE (Teaching Before Email) had their own challenges. And email isn’t all bad – there are so many advantages in us being able to stay connected with each other.
But TBE, there must have been something nice about being able, at the end of the day, to literally, switch off.
The way we are living our high-tech, hyper-connected, stimulus-rich lives can be very exciting, meaningful, rewarding… and stressful.
Ongoing exposure to highly stimulating environments can take a significant toll on our nervous system, endocrine (hormonal) system, and immune system.
But we do have a very powerful antidote. Nature.
Research over the last 30 years has demonstrated that connectedness and exposure to nature is linked to a range of mental and physical health benefits including:
- increased positive emotion, vitality, and life satisfaction;
- reduced pain and faster hospital recovery;
- stronger feelings of connectedness with others, greater sense of community, lower levels of violence and aggression, and a better capacity to cope with life’s demands.
But how much nature do we need?
A new study from researchers at the University of Michigan has helped to answer this question. They found that taking a “nature-pill” involving spending 20 minutes in a “place that brings a sense of contact with nature” was enough to significantly reduce stress hormones in saliva samples.
There are many things we can do to enhance our wellbeing and help protect us against stress and illbeing. But ultimately, there may be nothing more more broadly effective, efficient, and powerful than a short daily stroll through the park.
I am yet to meet a quality educator anywhere in the world, who decided to become a teacher for the fame and fortune or because they thought it would be a cruisy way to earn a buck.
Despite the fact that we knew it would be hard work, with long hours, high levels of stress, and relatively low pay and prestige, we chose it anyway. We all had our own different reasons for choosing this work – but we had a reason – a why.
Unfortunately, it is easy for that reason, that why, to get clouded by the day to day stress and needs of the job. And before we know it, we can lose track of it altogether.
When that happens (and it does happen), it’s critical to take time out to reconnect with that deep purpose so that it can drive our goals, decisions and behaviour. Or perhaps it’s time to consider another a different job.