Disclaimer: I am not a doctor of any kind or a certified natural healer. The information in this post is for entertainment purposes only.
More and more specialist are recommending time outdoors as a method of self-care.
I am attracted to nature. And I’m not the only one.
Humans have been living among nature since, well, the dawn of mankind. And yet, we so often forget our humble roots.
We try to tame nature to fit our designs. Or move it completely out of the way to build our own works of magnificent, albeit, lifeless edificies.
And yet we are still drawn to spend time walking in nature.
A beautiful prairie where the wind is blowing and the tall lythe grass is dancing with abandon. The smell of the flowers, the buzz of insects as they ride through the breeze.
Even a dry desert has its own stark beauty. The lay of the land is virtually naked, revealing all the majesty of its sandy existence. It’s scars, where water has carved it’s channels in the rock and sand, creating amazing canyons and caves for us to enjoy.
Humid and mysterious swamps and bogs, give one a sense of excitement and risk. Feeling as though adventure is around the corner
The awe inspiring grandeur of the oceans, their waves rolling in and out in a never ending dance. Swaying, swelling, before crashing down on the sand, reaching as far as it can to hug the earth.
The majestic pines, spruces, beach, birch, baobab, willows and so many more. Growing in their spaces. Reaching their limbs to the heavens or letting them sway gracefully by their side.
The green leafy ferns covering forest floors. Or a beautiful cactus flowering for the first time.
It’s all nature, and I’ll bet as you read each description you had an image, a smell, and a feeling come to you.
Maybe I left your favorite out, the vast tundra, the deserts of the sahara, the savannah, the jungles and rainforests. Even the stark barren ice of the far north and south.
These vast wilderness call to us because we have a connection to it all.
30 minutes a day can improve physical, mental, and emotional wellbeing.
There have been dozens of studies over the last several decades to show the benefits of being in nature.
It is now accepted among many disciplines that spending time in nature has a positive effect on the body and mind. More practitioners are prescribing outdoor time to their patients.
The advent of green spaces in urban areas, healing gardens in hospitals, and urban gardens on apartment porches all attest to this growing understanding of the benefits of nature.
We would love to immerse yourself in nature. In some kind of poetic wilderness as Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote about. Or engage in cultural shinrin-yoku, or tree bathing, as the Japanese do.
But we don’t all live in the middle of our own wilderness.
And that’s okay, many don’t want to, but still want the benefits of being in nature.
So go to a nearby park or garden and spend thirty minutes a day.
This alone will help relieve the stress hormone cortisol, which will relieve a myriad of other problems such as: depression, mental fatigue, feelings of burnout, cardiovascular health, and even obstetric outcomes.
I love this information because it confirms what I have in my own life. When I go for a walk outside, even in the winter, I feel happier, rejuvenated, energized, and my thoughts are clearer.
I don’t get the same effect on a treadmill or walking on an indoor track.
I workout at home. From late spring to mid fall I can exercise on my porch.
Occasionally I feel a little conspicuous exercising outside, but I feel better than when I exercise inside my apartment.
So on cold wet days I’ve learned to exercise near a window.
What to do when in nature.
Ideally the best thing you can do when trying to reap all the benefits of being in nature is to simply be in nature.
You don’t have to run or hike, you’re not looking for any particular animal or plant. You don’t have to analyse anything.
The point is to destress. So just be still.
Meander on a slow walk if you feel like moving, or sit with your eyes closed breathing in the smells as you listen to all the sounds around you.
Focus on one point and practice mindful meditation, which is this: you focus on your breathing and on what you are viewing without any thoughts or judgments. When thoughts try to interrupt your calm, and they will, notice them and breath them away with your next exhalation.
Try mindful meditation first for one minute, then two, then three. Until you have gradually increased your time to ten or more minutes.
That’s all you have to do in nature.
And just thirty minutes a day. It can be broken into fifteen or ten minute increments, or all thirty in one go.
I personally prefer to be out for as long as I can.
How to get outside more?
This one can be a struggle. But anything worth doing, is worth making the time. If needed, schedule it into your day, complete with a timer.
- Take a nature walk:
When you take a break at work walk outside. If you’re in a suburb I guarantee there is a green space or a row of trees planted nearby. Go walk by the trees, even touch their bark and leaves. Or go sit in a green space.
If you’re in a more urban area this may be harder, but I think if you look, you’ll find some nature hidden nearby.
2. Eat lunch outside.
We all have to eat, but whoever said we had to eat inside a noisy, stuffy cafeteria, or a bussiling deli.
Take your food outside, even if you can’t get to a park. Sit on a bench and feel the wind on your face and body.
If possible, eat near a tree and try to take a moment for mindful meditation as you examine the tree and other signs of nature around you. Be present in the moment.
3. If you live in urban housing have potted plants or a small garden on your porch.
Taking care of the plants gives you a connection with nature. Feeling the soil in your fingers when you repot a plant, giving it water and ensuring it’s needs are met will help you to meet some important needs of your own. Like reducing stress.
Not only that but when you live in an apartment, like I do, then being able to sit on your own porch and absorb the elements of nature that you’ve placed there can be extremely calming.
4. Make time to visit some wilderness.
I know, this one can be hard. I’m lucky to live so close to a couple of mountain ranges, parks, and walking trails. I recognized that not everyone is so fortunate.
But I believe that even those in urban areas are just a short car, train, or bus ride from nature. Maybe you can even bike out of the city and into a small patch of wilderness.
The benefits are worth the sacrifice in time. The more you spend in nature reaping its benefits, the more you’ll want to return.
Soon you’ll find yourself seeking out those green spaces. Or going for strolls across the grass instead of always on the sidewalk.
You might move your desk closer to the window so you can look out at a nearby park. Or stop at the beach on your drive home to sit with your feet buried in the sand.
However you incorporate nature into your life you can do so knowing that the science is there to back up what you are doing.
So dive into nature and happily let your stress exit your body and allow the restorative powers of nature to heal you.