Simply by paying attention to the natural world around us, fully immersed in our senses to the stimulus that is ever-present, has a remarkably powerful healing effect on our bodies and mind.
2020 has left many feeling uncertain, uprooted and stressed out. We have little control over the events that have occurred and continue to, however, we do have control in the ways in which we can handle the outcome.
The past week, I feel at times I have held my breath in anticipation. The unknowingness of our current socio-economic climate, the events that transpired and the ways in which we have become disconnected, isolated and unsettled, I have had to stop and remind myself to breathe through it all.
Melbournians particularly has been a talking point for Australia, with what seems like harsh rules, restrictions and business closures. As we emerge from these challenging times, coming back to nature therapy has never been so important.
Dr Qing Li’s research from the Nippon Medical School has shown that spending time around trees, in nature and mindful experience through our senses can reduce blood pressure, lower stress and anxiety, boost energy and immunity, and promote a sense of calm and wellbeing.
It is through our sense of touch, taste, smell, sight and sounds that we create an instant connection with our Central nervous system and by bringing awareness to our senses, we are able to stop the chatter in our minds and create space to ‘tune in’.
Humans are intrinsically linked to the natural world. We all know that feeling when we have spent a day outdoors, soaking up the sun, beach walks or appreciating the spring blooms, it brings a profound sense of the beauty and mystery of the universe and our place among it. Mother Nature invites us in, nourishing our curiosity with wonderment, essentially working our innate capacity for healing.
Try this simple mediation to hit the pause button and discover the healing benefits of Nature:
ENGAGE YOUR SENSES
Sit in a quiet, comfortable place in nature; local woodlands, forest or beach.
Relax your jaw, unfurl your brow, and drop your shoulders away from your ears.
Find relaxation within your body.
Gently close down your eyes and listen to the sounds around you.
Listen to the songs of the birds, the rush of the waves crashing onshore or the wind rustling the leaves. Notice all the different sounds for about 30-40 seconds.
Open your eyes allowing the colours to flood your vision. Look at the depth of green hues, the sunlight that filters through the leaves or the waves as they roll in and recede from the shoreline.
Step your vision out to the furthest point you can focus on, this could be the treetops or a ship offshore. Now soften your gaze, look into your peripherals; the vision outside your focus, what can you make out? Pay attention to the different colours, textures, brightness and movement.
Take a deep inhalation; what can you smell? Is it the smell of dampened pines trees by the rain? The salty air of the ocean? Or the scented gums that line the trails? Natural aromatherapy holds many medicinal benefits, trace the air as it flows into your lungs and trace it throughout your bloodstream in your mind. With each deep, conscious breath, taste the air as you breathe.
Feel your sit bones beneath you, the gentle pressure of the ground beneath your body. If you can, take off your shoes and walk along the path, or the sandy beach. Dip your toes in the water and notice the different sensations underfoot; pressure, cold/hot, wet/dry. How do you feel about this?
Bring your awareness to your entire body, the sensations that arise. This may be the wind cool on your skin, the warmth of the sun and notice all the sensations; sight, sound, smell, taste.
How do you feel? Perhaps calm, joyful and centred. By anchoring in the present moment through connecting with Nature, we are provided instant feedback to how we are feeling and can release any pressure or tightness that we are holding within our bodies, often that we aren’t even aware of.
Engaging our senses heightens our connection with the natural world. This deep sense of contentment, joy and calm felt is our sixth sense; our state of mind.
Throughout my life experiences and stressors, having this deep connection with Nature and hiking has helped to build my mental strength and resilience, help overcome challenges and adversity. It allows me to pause time, reflect and decompress, often ending in tears of release. Humans hold so much tension and this year has been incredibly testing for us all.
Other simple ways I get my Nature fix are:
- Barefoot walks; beach, backyard or trails
- Sitting in the sun with a good book (and a hat)
-Scrunch up a herb leaf from the garden in my hand and smell
- Birdwatch; have you noticed how a magpie can 'hear' a worm through the grass?
- Hug a tree; Okay, so perhaps you can start with touching the different textures of the bark
- Fresh Box Breathing; Head outdoors and take a deep breath for 4 secs, Hold for 4 sec, Full exhale 4 secs, Hold 4 Sec- repeat 4 times
- Beach Swims- cold water therapy anchors mindful practice
- Gardening- a simple pleasure that is tasty too
- Indoor plants- they are in every corner of my home and not only aesthetically pleasing but great air purifiers too
Coldwater swims are not only great sports recovery but anchors for mindful acceptance practice. #ColdIsAStateOfMind
“What in Zen is called ‘satori’ is a moment of presence, a brief stepping out of the voice in your head, the thought processes, and their reflection in the body as emotion. It is the arising of inner spaciousness where before there was the clutter of thought and the turmoil of emotion.”
- Eckhart Tolle ( Oneness with all life)