Sometimes we think going outside is only for the sunny day, the pleasant day, the day when we have lots of free time or when we feel’ at one’ with nature. True, but the really beneficial time to be out in nature is when we feel rotten, when we have not a moment to spare ,are overwhelmed and’ not in the mood’ for wind or rain. Am I wrong?
As we hear, and in fact witness more and more of the reality of climate crises, the impact of human activity it can be really crippling. We can feel stuck, guilty, overwhelmed. It can be really difficult to navigate what to do as our head fills with guilt, catastrophizing, shoulds, and a sense of impending doom.
At the same time we humans are beginning to hear is an increasing call within us to ‘get back to nature.’ I imagine each of us has experienced a sense of profound awe, peace, and wonder at sometime when we were outside in some natural environment that inspires us, and brings us home to our own inner peace.
Of course we are not the first to discover this awe inspiring healing potential of simply being outside. Six thousand years ago people in Australia withdrew regularly to be in nature as a way to feed the soul, heal and learn how to be. All of the great wisdom traditions East and West that being in nature brings us closer to the Source and also brings us home to ourselves.
So there is nothing new under the sun. But as weary, over busy, often disconnected from our roots 21st century humans there is I think some comfort for us in the increasing evidence from neuroscience that being in nature is wholing and healing- reminding us that we are part of something and simply bringing us home to ourselves. The evidence is in as scientists are beginning to find evidence that being in nature has a profound positive impact on both our brains and our behaviour, helping us to reduce stress anxiety, and catastrophizing, and stress, improving our attention capacity, creativity, and our ability to connect with other people.
We know now from the work of neuroscience that being in nature, or even would you believe looking at nature on our screens or out a window, reduces anger, fear, and stress and increases pleasant feelings. Exposure to nature not only makes us feel better emotionally, it also contributes to our physical wellbeing, reducing blood pressure, heart rate, muscle tension, and the production of stress hormones.
Five ways we know that being in nature supports our wellbeing
1)Walks in nature help our memory
In general, exercise is great, but one study from the University of Michigan showed participants who took a memory test and then walked in nature did 20% better than those who took the test and then took a walk around the city.
2. We feel happier
According to one Finnish study, spending just 15 minutes sitting in nature helped people feel psychologically restored. Those results were even faster when they spent that time walking.
3. We can concentrate better
Taking a break in nature can improve our concentration by giving our brains a well-needed break. Leave your phone behind and let your mind unwind from the overstimulation so common with modern, screen dominated busy life.
4. Nature limits your stress
Being outside in nature, reduces stress in the body. Studies show spending even a short time outdoors can lower your heart rate—a symptom of stress.
5. It lightens feelings of depression
Being in nature is healing in so many ways—including our mental health. Many studies have linked nature walks with improved mental health, hence the resurgence.
How to begin to benefit from natures ability to boost our wellbeing
A doorway into understanding this healing power of nature for me is this well known and much loved poem by Wendell Berry.
The Peace of Wild Things
When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake rests in his beauty on the water,
and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought of grief.
I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars waiting with their light.
For a timeI rest in the grace of the world, and am free.
We know now that exploring mindfulness in nature is a healing practice that nourishes both us and the environment we move through. It helps us to feel connected to the earth and at peace where we stand. As we nurture this connection with our natural home, we begin then to respond by treading more lightly on the earth and to making choices that understand planet earth as part of us. So however we do it, learning to notice and simply to ’be’ in nature is a simple yet powerful way to come home to our own inner calm as we learn to feel more part of our earth home.
So my wish for you, for me, for all of us is that we take some small practical steps to begin to notice our natural home and spend time outside, or if we are already doing that, my wish is that we spend a little more time outside, settle a little more into ’the peace of wild things’.
If you would like to learn more about how you can live from your own inner calm why not book a free Banish Burnout Mastery call with me here: https://mindfulwithdee.kartra.com/calendar/Banishburnout
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Peace to You
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