‘Nature awakens deadened senses, it has the power to bring you to life again’
– Joan Borysenko
Eyes closed, I take a large inhalation, holding at the top of my breath before a full exhalation through an open mouth to clear my lungs, clear my mind. I repeat a few times until my heart rate has calmed, my thoughts slowed and I anchor in to where I sit, flutter my eyes open and proceed to clear the desk.
It’s the reset I need, more often than not at the moment. Of late, I have been working indoors and I feel the screen time is really starting to affect me. I find myself staring out the windows on the wild weather days, wishing I were in the elements, among it all, experiencing it all. To some, I am sure I sound crazy but some of the most testing conditions are where you find out what you are really made of. The cold wind that blushes our cheeks, heads adorned with beanie, warm jacket shielding from icy winds. The trails are evidently quiet on these days, but to be honest I’d much rather hike in the cold than the heat!
Nature is both beauty and beast. She is unrelenting, unforgiving yet provides so much nurturing beyond what science can tell us, so much opportunity for growth if we take the time to explore her.
When I push my boundaries of comfort and ease and explore the wilderness with only what I can carry, I have the most expansive feeling of contentment. Worries dissolve; the rational mind focuses on the river crossing, the elevation of the climb or the next meal. It’s cathartic, empowering and strips back the overload, overwhelm and over consumption of societies modern life.
I often feel my path is not the ‘norm’. I’m okay with that as the path of Nature never disappoints. As children, we lived in wonderment of her beauty, finding miracles and fascination at every turn. Sadly, as we ‘grow up’, we lose our ability to see beauty everywhere; we forget to look for the miracles and lose connection with the magic that nature affords.
When we connected to nature, we have a greater sense of well-being. When we disconnect, we suffer greater illness and disease.
Children have a great connection with Nature. Their sense of wonder and magic in everything they encounter. This connect nurtures a sense of well-being and as we age, we lose this sense of wonderment. It’s time to reclaim it!
Whilst the benefits of a few hours immersed in Nature have been documented to last for up to 2 weeks, exploring Nature therapy doesn’t have to be time consuming. If you can’t escape for a wander in the woods (just yet) and want to experience the benefits of Nature, some simple exercises can be done in the garden, down by the beach or nearby park will provide benefits to body and mind.
Take your break outdoors.
This one is no brainer. Spending your lunch break walking through a park invites a sensory experience, an array of sensation and interplay of body sensations and the environment. Find a quiet spot and take a look around; what can you see? Notice the different trees and the shapes of their leaves. Pick one up, feel it. Is it smooth or rough? Notice the shape, the edges of the leaf. Can you identify what kind of tree it is?
A micro break outdoors, mindfully present in our surroundings will promote a calming of the nervous system and provide a rest from staring at screens.
Head in the clouds.
Inspire the child like mind for a game of creating cloud pictures. Lay on your back, on top a rug or yoga mat and look at the clouds patterns in the sky. Can you make out a picture? An animal face or object? The edges of the clouds provide basis of anything, only limited by your imagination. What the way they move through the sky. Is it windy and the clouds are moving fast? Is it still, with little breeze? Notice the layers of the clouds and their distance from the earth.
Exercises such as this are a simple effective way to anchor in the present moment. Slow down the pace in which we do thing and bring awareness to self and surroundings. We rarely crane our necks to the sky, and this perspective shift can deliver some creative solutions to life’s niggles.
Extreme Close- up
Imagine you are 10 years old again. Your curious mind takes you outdoors. You are a scientist and you’ve found a fossil, maybe a shell or interesting leaf. Look at the lines, edges and texture of the object. Do these lines serve a purpose? A vein of a leaf provides structure. Why does the object have this texture? Is it smooth from a life at sea, polished with the tumbling waves? Are there any patterns that are identifiable? The spiral of a shell. The branching off of the veins on the leaf.
Patters that occur in Nature are called Fractals. They have been scientifically proven to reduce stress by up to 60%. Fractals are everywhere in nature and have a calming effect on our body and mind. When we consciously investigate the small intricacies of these nature items, we are able to control our subtle energy of mood and response of our nervous system.
Plant the seed.
Growing and maintaining a garden is beneficial in a number of ways. When you grow your own food, it’s a labour of love. You know where it has come from, how organic it is, low food miles, and you get your hands dirty! The microbes in the soil are beneficial to our bodies systems, providing immunity boost and assists in gut health by balancing the ‘bad’ bacteria that is associated with disease, including mental illness.
It can be a garden bed, pots on a window sill or a big patch. Whatever works for you and your lifestyle. Growing your own food increases self-efficacy belief in self) and grows a deeper appreciation for food, waste and the process of seed to table.
Follow your nose.
Step outside, sit comfortably and close down your eyes. Take a deep inhalation through your nose and out your mouth. Continue to breathe deeply in through your nose. What can you smell? Has it just rained or perhaps it has been dry? Are the smells earthy? Floral? Woody?
Spring time in Melbourne and the blooms are abundant. At my place, the smells of lemon scented gums, and lavender dance with deep woody scents of conifers.
Our sense of smell is the most primal of senses, providing a direct route to our nervous system, that of flight fight or rest and digest.
Certain smells are stronger after the rain, like the smell of a forest after it has rained. When it has been dry for a long time, plants oils collect in the soil and rocks. When it rains, the water releases the oils and the aroma is what we can smell.
Petrichor; from the Greek word Petra meaning stone and Ichor, referring to the essence that flows in veins of gods. So, the Essence of Rock, the Smell of Life.
Nature is about finding balance. As we advance in our technology, our modern world ways of being busy, we must pair with natural world, she will provide healing. Everything in life has its pair. Yin-Yang, Day-Night, Hot-Cold. Find your balance.
If you're keen to learn more about the benefits of Nature, check out my other blogs.
Better yet, experience firsthand the positive health benefits with a Holistic Hike.