Outdoor Therapy: Benefits of Reconnecting with Nature
by Kinga Lewandowska — 5 min read
Every good story has elements of nature in it. Robin Hood defended the rights of the poor and hid from the law among the oaks of Sherwood Forest. In the Disney movie Frozen, Elsa and Anna go on a journey to understand Elsa’s magical powers bound by the elements of nature. There would be no pirates without the seven seas and imagine The Lord of the Rings saga without the rich landscapes of mountains, woods and rivers.
When we think of nature, what usually comes to mind first is the greenery of a forest with its tall trees and chirping birds. Fauna and flora, sunlight and rain, a path through the hills, snow, stars and… us.
We are born from the earth and we will one day turn back into it, which makes our relationship with Mother Nature of vital importance. In this article, we explore how we can care for this bond and continue to rely on it with the green light to enjoy all the benefits for free.
Wood Wide Web: Kindness In The Forest
In his book The Hidden Life of Trees, German forester and author Peter Wohlleben describes how the forest communicates within and with others. Did you know that trees growing next to each other tend to be friends? It’s evident in how they cooperate. For example, their branches adjust in a way that leaves the others room to breathe and their roots connect underground in case a tree gets sick or needs additional food from one of its neighbors.
This natural kindness can teach us that we are naturally capable of being good to ourselves and others, too. Nobody’s perfect, yet if we all come from the same source, with the right guidance, we can certainly revert to the purity of heart worthy of the forest. And there are a number of reasons it is wise to be worthy of Mother Nature.
There’s even a friendly bacteria found in soil calledMycobacterium vaccae that has an anti-inflammatory effect on our immune system and works as a natural antidepressant. Which brings us to mental health.
To say that natural environments ameliorate stress is actually an understatement. Imagine the power of this outdoor therapy if it has been found effective in alleviating PTSD in war veterans. And what’s even more amazing, unless you’re willing to go to extremes such as swimming in ice-cold water, nature loving is pretty much a risk-free method of significantly improving our mental health.
To start with, we would prescribe a simple walk in the park.
I think that I cannot preserve my health and spirits, unless I spend four hours a day at least—and it is commonly more than that—sauntering through the woods and over the hills and fields, absolutely free from all worldly engagements. – Henry David Thoreau
How To Go For A Walk Properly
The answer is quite simple – limit distractions. Go for a walk without your phone, or at least put it on airplane mode if you still want to listen to music. Yes, this strolling time is useful to acquire knowledge from podcasts and audiobooks, too. However, we encourage you to approach walking from a more conscious perspective. Make it active meditation.
Be present in the moment and in the act of walking. Look around you, pay attention to your surroundings, notice the smallest details. Maybe there’s a ladybird resting on a dog’s nose, or a ray of sun flickering on the surface of a pond? Listen attentively. Can you hear leaves rustling in the wind? Is it the sound you associate with walks you took as a child with your grandparents? Try to experience nature through all your senses in all the seasons.
Fun fact: the Japanese have a separate word for the way sunshine filters through the trees, they call this transcendental light Komorebi (木漏れ日). Side effect of this experience: you might feel an urge to hug a tree, which we highly recommend.
Head In The Clouds, Feet On The Ground
When you’ve walked two or three miles, try meditating in a more traditional sense, too. Take out a blanket or a cushion, sit down on the ground, a tree stomp or on a bench. Pause, close your eyes, calm your mind, and let nature sing to you through the voice of a bird. Let the sunbeams kiss you on the cheek. Feel the wind on your face, inhale it, let it embrace you. Find stillness. This is what it feels like to be truly connected to the source.
After taking a walk outside, you might notice a significant increase in productivity. Natural environments have the power to refresh our motivation and subsequently improve the quality of our work. Yet, what if you live in the middle of a huge city and a park is a rarity? Or, if for some reason, you are unable to leave the house? Thankfully, Mother Nature likes to share her gifts and lets us bring the outdoors in. Try these ideas in your home:
fill your house with pot plants of all shapes and sizes
buy yourself some fresh cut flowers
put chestnuts, acorns and cones in bowls as home decor
To strengthen your bond with nature even more, do something you wouldn’t normally do. Go outside and enjoy the rain without an umbrella (only please do so in summer, we don’t want you to catch a cold). Volunteer at an animal shelter (animals are as much a part of nature as we are), or rent a cabin in the woods for the weekend with no Wi-Fi connection. Your work is still going to be here when you come back, but you’ll have a lot more strength to deal with it with a fresh pair of eyes.
The magic of nature lives in small moments of awe and gratitude. Let’s agree that anything blessed by the sunset light is automatically ten times prettier. Why do we automatically smile when a beautiful butterfly crosses our path, or we see rose bushes blooming, notice the golden colors of autumn, or when we visit the bluebell woods? Could the answer lie somewhere in the star constellations of the night sky?
In this article, we’ll focus on the opposite concept on growth mindset, the fixed mindset, and give you a new perspective on why and how this way of thinking can restrain you in life, and what are first steps to change.
Here is a simple set-by-step guide, inspired by the Best Year Journal practice, to help you set achievable, attainable goals in four steps. Change the way you plan your future. Set objectives, aims, and plans you can actually stick to.