The Power of Nature
If there was a free, natural medicine for stress and anxiety available to you close to home, would you use it?
For a while now, we have all been told that nature can benefit our mental health. Perhaps it’s something we’ve never really looked into, but it is something we seem to notice when we go out for a walk in the woods, by the sea, or in any other green or blue space. We may not be intentionally thinking about the benefits of nature, but we often come back feeling far more calm and at ease.
For me, this is how my connection with nature began. I wasn’t aware that nature had benefits to my mental health, I just knew that when I was feeling low or anxious – I NEEDED to go outside. I needed to walk. I noticed I needed to watch something REAL. It was in my late teens that I started to see this.
So I began to interact with nature more – I would walk to the beach at midnight and just silently sit on the rocks. In the stillness, I began to hear noises – crabs, hundreds of them, scuttling around. There was a time I would have probably been scared, but instead, I began to watch, observe and notice – something as a quieter person, I’m often quite good at if I put my mind to it.
I began to take notice of my auditory senses. I would listen to everything I could hear. I would find a place to sit, close my eyes and just listen. In reality, I didn’t really know what I was doing. I knew it made me focus on something, it allowed me to find a place within a space – not making noise. I remember being out with a friend and I told her to try it – I was always a bit self-conscious sharing these thoughts and ideas, but she was kind, and tried it. She too, found herself feeling safe and totally immersed by her surroundings – by just simply being and engaging her senses.
It occurred to me that these quiet interactions with nature were having an impact on how I navigated life. Being alone in the woods, I felt at home. But when I had to go into town to pick things up or see friends, I noticed I was slowing down, I was more observant – not struck by the busyness and trying to get out of it all the time. I began to find myself looking for the quiet in the chaos; associating with the pigeons picking up pasty crumbs rather than worrying about the crowds around me. Not feeling like I had to speak up – I could focus my attention on something external within nature and it would reassure me.
I may have accidentally discovered the healing power of nature, but science confirms it. Creating and nurturing a bond with nature has profound benefits for our wellbeing. So, where do you start? There are many techniques that you can practice in your everyday life and here are some of my favourites for you to try when you’re next out.
Nature Nourishment Activities
This is a chance for you to explore areas of quiet and calm, and noticing areas of movement within nature. As you are walking or sitting in nature, take note of what is moving – there could be animals, plants or elements like water. Then take note of things that are still. This is a good opportunity to reflect on the times where quiet is needed, and motion is needed. You can relate these to your own thoughts and feelings.
Engage your auditory sense with the nature around you. Find somewhere to stand or sit still and listen carefully to everything you can hear immediately around you. After a few moments, try to expand your awareness so you can hear everything around you further away. Again wait a few moments and take everything in. Expand your awareness again until you think you can hear everything possible in range.
Choose somewhere easy to get to (it could be in your garden). Practice spending time there fully engaged with what is going on around you. This is a good time to jot down what you notice and how it makes you feel. This is something you can do often and through the changing seasons. You will be amazed at what you start to sense around you and the deep connection you will develop with nature.
Gratitude alters are a great way to give thanks to nature whilst taking time to practice gratitude in your own life. At your special place, a place you often visit or a place you find while wandering, make a small altar of gratitude out of natural and beautiful things you find nearby. As you build these alters you can find elements in nature that represent things you are grateful for. If it is a spot you visit regularly, like your garden, you can maintain these altars and use them as an opportunity to think about what you are grateful for as you rebuild and reshape them.
We would love to hear about your adventures in nature and how you feel about it. Comment below or share your photos and thoughts on Instagram and Facebook tagging #QuietConnections.