I’ve always loved the story of Pandora’s box. If it’s not one you’ve heard, it goes something like this…
Back in the day there were two brothers, Prometheus, whose name means ‘forethinker’ or think first, and Epimetheus, whose name means ‘hindsight’, or think later. Despite being given many earthly gifts by the Gods, they wanted fire for mankind, so stole it from the heavens in the hollow of an elder branch. Who can blame them I guess? In punishment Zeus had Prometheus tied to a rock with his liver eaten daily by an eagle. To get back at man for accepting it, the first woman was sent to Earth, bestowed with beauty, wisdom and a host of other marvellous things. Despite warnings from his brother about accepting presents from the Gods, Epimetheus just could not resist and took her for his wife. This woman carried with her a special box and went by the name of Pandora, which means ‘all gifts’, a bit of a sick joke I think, considering that the ‘gifts’ were rather grim. Epimetheus was given the only key to the box, and they were commanded never to open it, which obviously made them want to do so even more. When they did, many the evils of the world flew out, greed, hatred, envy, war, things we are all too familiar with today. Trying to slam the door shut, all that was left in the bottom of the box was hope.
Now a quick side-line here. Some stories tell you it was Pandora who opened the box out of curiosity, others tell you it was Epimetheus who thinks later, more say that the key was a symbol of the phallus and Pandoras box was – well, I’m sure you can work that one out for yourselves. I like to think it was a joint effort, woman have been blamed for too many of the world’s problems, ever since Eve supposedly took a bite of the forbidden fruit, getting everyone kicked out of Eden.
But this is not a lesson in theology. It’s about hope.
‘Hope is being able to see that there is light despite all of the darkness’. Desmond Tutu
In psychological terms, this is more a description of optimism than hope, the belief that things will work out, despite adversity. Hope, whilst linked, has an active component, where a person has the desire to achieve certain goals and the belief that there are many ways to do this (for more on agency and pathway thinking, see Snyder, 2002). Turns out both are good for your health, improving self-esteem, resilience, positive emotion and much more.
Being optimistic in todays world is not always easy, but research shows that it can be improved by appreciating beauty, and there is no shortage of that in the natural world. So here are three things you can do right now to see that the world is still beautiful, and with any luck, build your optimism at the same time:
- Bless the growth around you. This doesn’t have to be a religious blessing, it just means noticing new growth and being thankful for it. In spring there loads of opportunities to do this, in the seedlings you may have planted, in the shoots that are starting to emerge from the warming woodland soil, in the swelling buds on the trees, or the flowers that increase daily, even in the weeds that push their way through the cracks in the concrete of the inner city. We all must start somewhere.
- Find gratitude for the light. As we move towards spring in the Northern hemisphere, the sun appears higher in the sky, setting slightly more north every day. After a long winter it couldn’t be more welcome, so make it part of your life to appreciate it, wherever it breaks through the clouds, reflects on leaves, or creates shadows on walls.
- Take a daily photograph. There is something about taking the time to find a scene of something beautiful to photograph. It may take a whole day or just a brief moment, where you intentionally stop, see beauty and honour it in film (well pixels these days I guess). Looking at images of nature can boost your mood too, so you can save the beautiful things to look at when you need a little pick-me-up later.
If you want to receive short (we know you’re busy) seasonal reminders on connecting with nature, sign up to our newsletter and get 20-page A beginners guide to using herbs completely free. This will introduce you to some easy to grow or forage plants, with simple recipes for you to try, in the kitchen, bathroom and medicine cabinet.
But most importantly, do what you can to get a daily dose of nature, no matter how short, and please, when doing so, do it with the respect it deserves.