How many news reports have emphasized the numerous benefits of nature on our mental health and physical wellbeing? Too many to count and more than enough to cause anxiety for all the hours spent indoors. It's funny how we humans can shut down and turn away from our simplest natural actions when we have a constant barrage of information telling us why something is good for us.
Then, via social media and television, we are inundated with fabulous photos of adventure climbers, yoga experts, and top athletes experiencing nature in monumental ways. These images are meant to inspire but only make us feel inferior as we take the dog for a walk down the same trail again. Not to worry, here are 3 Easy Ways to Enjoy Nature for stress relief and mental balance.
1. A Ritual Sit
Nature happens with or without our notice. Cycles of the sun, moon, and seasons have become about fashion, television shows, sports, and travel destinations but the real magic is happening every day outside your door. All you have to do is set a time that is convenient for your schedule and sit for 10 or more minutes to observe the outdoor elements. It is as simple as quietly drinking a cup of coffee in the morning or a glass of wine in the evening on your front porch, back patio, balcony, or open a window to the great outdoors to use your senses. Each day will bring different sights, sounds, scents, temperatures, weather, and wildlife. After a few days, you will crave the peaceful interaction with mother nature and maybe even feel more energetic and alive.
2. A Daily Walk Outdoors
Not every walk will be on a trail into the wilderness and that is ok. The point of a nature walk is to slow down and observe the surrounding environment. Whether you live in the city, suburbs, or country, the outdoors is filled with life. In all outdoor environments we can observe cloud formations, wind, rain, moon, sun, birds, and people.
Here are some simple questions to help you observe outside. What phase of the moon appears in the day or night sky? Is the moon waxing or waning? What type of clouds do you see? Can you smell damp earth or feel the warmth of the sun? What are people wearing for the weather? What sounds do you hear? Can you hear birds?
It really is that simple, but you must do it with intention. No cell phone or music for your daily walk outdoors. A nature walk should be at least 15 minutes for both physical and mental wellbeing. If the weather is uncooperative then practice a Ritual Sit for 10 minutes while gazing out a window.
Climbing Mount Everest or doing yoga in the forest is not the goal of being in nature. Many of the most noteworthy naturalists, like Aldo Leopold, Rachel Carson, John James Audubon, or Ansel Adams simply took the time to write, sketch, or photograph their observations on their daily walks. Over the years, patterns and cycles emerged yielding new insight into the surrounding natural landscapes. We are all different, hence, our individual observations of the natural world are equally important to both our own wellbeing and the health of the planet. The simple act of walking can lead to amazing things.
3. A Nature Journal
Ok, the title alone may cause anxiety for some. However, there is no right or wrong way of creating a Nature Journal. The best suggestion is to take an additional 3-5 minutes after your Ritual Sit or Daily Walk Outdoors and simply write down any observations you have. No need to be poetic or artistic, unless you feel inclined. The best way to begin is to make a list of 5 or 10 things you noticed, possibly include a fallen leaf or seasonal flower pressed into the pages. If you are more scientific, write down the temperature, season, times of the sunrise & sunset, phase of the moon, weather, cloud cover, and plants in bloom. Over time, these simple daily rituals will uncover hidden meanings in the movements of the outdoor elements. Those same elements that once felt 'foreign' or 'meaningless' will begin to guide you, pacify your thoughts, reduce anxiety, and renew a sense of wonderment and awe at life.
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