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Resilience, Nature, and Herbal Medicine

Todd Robinson, ND, FABNO

December 16, 2020

2020 has been a tough year.

The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted our day-to-day lives, hurt our economy, and overburdened our healthcare system. It’s no surprise then that anxiety, depression, substance abuse, and suicidal thoughts all became more common in 2020. [1]

But, in words attributed to Albert Einstein, “In the middle of every difficulty lies opportunity.”

As we move into 2021, our opportunity is to embrace the fresh start that a New Year provides and to cultivate something positive for ourselves.

The adversity of the past year and the uncertainty of the coming one suggest we should cultivate resilience.

What is resilience?

The APA defines resilience as “the process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats or even significant sources of stress.” [2]  

Resilient people are those folks who, despite adversity, challenge, or stress, keep moving forward positively and productively. For whatever reason, the dirt of life doesn’t seem to stick to a resilient person as much.

Researchers have studied resilience for years and through their efforts have formally described resilient people as embodying these characteristics: [3]

  • viewing change as a challenge or opportunity
  • commitment
  • recognition of limits to control
  • engaging the support of others
  • close, secure attachment to others
  • personal or collective goals
  • self-efficacy
  • strengthening effect of stress
  • past successes
  • realistic sense of control/having choices
  • sense of humor
  • action-oriented approach
  • patience
  • tolerance of negative affect
  • adaptability to change
  • optimism
  • faith

Interestingly, research does suggest it’s possible to build resilience, like a muscle we can deliberately grow. 4 The question is how?

Cultivating your connection to nature may be one way.

Nature and Resilience

Resilience is a complex phenomenon involving choice, connection, control, patience, and self-efficacy.

As I have previously referenced, nature therapy, or exposure to natural environments and materials, is well-documented to reduce feelings of anxiety, depression, and stress. 

Additional research suggests that feeling a connection to nature strengthens one’s capacity for resilience. [5]

I’d argue that when we listen, nature teaches resilience.

Herbal Medicine and Nature

Herbal medicine is, by definition, the use of “roots, stems, leaves, flowers, or seeds of plants to improve health, prevent disease, and treat illness.” [6]

Throughout its long history of use, herbal medicine has been practiced in the gardens and kitchens of regular people. Practicing herbal medicine, even informally, necessarily brings one into close contact with plants and plant materials.

Delve deeper into herbal medicine, and you begin to realize how plants are connected to other plants, animals, and the environment as a whole. You begin to see life itself as an interconnected and interdependent web.

This realization can be profound and can enhance one’s connection to nature.

Embrace the Opportunity

As we put 2020 behind us, we all have an opportunity to move forward positively and productively.

Bringing herbal medicine into your daily life may help.

In 2021, I will be offering virtual courses on the home use of herbal medicine (growing them, making them, and using them). Please send me a message if you’re interested in learning more details.  

I wish you and yours Happy Holidays!

Dr. Robinson owns and operates Natural Medicine Advisors, where he offers telehealth consultations on integrating natural medicine into any conventional treatment plan, be it for cancer or another medical condition.

Visit to learn more.


[1] MMWR Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report 

[2] PMID: 25317257

[3] PMID: 12964174

[4] PMID: 25266031

[5] DOI: 10.1089/eco.2012.0042

[6] NCI: Definition of Herbal Medicine

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