Being out in nature, whether real or imagined, has proven positive effects on both our mental and physical health, as it gives our bodies and minds an opportunity to slow down and relax. There is a lot of science and philosophy around why having nature and plant life in our environments is so important to our wellbeing. But my view, based on a little bit of research and my own personal experience, is the idea that we are creatures of nature and are meant to have a connection with the natural environment. So, the more humanity becomes removed from their connection with plants and animals and earth and water, the more we are likely to find ourselves stressed and unwell.
When I close my eyes and think of relaxing situations, they are often settings like laying out in the sun on a peaceful beach, where I can hear the waves and the birds calling and feel the sun on my face. It isn’t a coincidence that relaxation focused therapies choose these natural settings for these visualisations. One of the key aspects about why these settings work is because they are generally very removed from the busy, distracting and stressful environments we find ourselves in during everyday life.
It might seem difficult for those living in urban environments to be able to get away to nature because you might think it needs to be a long weekend away on a tropical island or a stay in a luxury resort. But
something as simple as visiting a public garden or spending a day in less metropolitan communities where there are front yards and trees growing along public walkways can help. Getting back to nature doesn’t have to mean becoming Bear Grylls and going out into the wildest areas. For most people it wouldn’t be hard to find a public park or go out into the countryside for part of the day and just make the commitment to take things easy.
One of my favourite things to do, especially when I am feeling stressed is to take a walk along the riverside path that runs below the public gardens in my city. It is a mostly shaded walkway that has dappled sunlight and patches where you can see the sky. There are benches spaced along the walkway and it is often a very peaceful place to stop and just watch the river flowing along beside the walkway.
My second favourite place to focus my attention when I need to get out of an anxiety or stress headspace is to spend time in my garden and focus my attention on the details of plants and the movement of insects. It can be particularly enjoyable during the summer to pull up a chair and at a safe distance watch the bees buzzing around flowering plants.
I think the more we practice being in nature and consciously placing our focus on the details of nature, rather than the sources of our everyday occupations and stresses, the better we will get at reconnecting with the natural rhythms that have been part of our lives for generations. We are part of nature and nature is part of us, so the more we can embrace that the happier and healthier the environment and our lives will be.