Mindfulness books and stress-reduction studies cite the power of nature for helping us lead happier and healthier lives – as does UK charity MIND who spent 5 years compiling evidence to show that Ecotherapy works. [Ecotherapy = the name given to all the ways in which you can improve your mental and physical wellbeing through doing outdoor activities in nature *MIND.org.uk] In its truest form, ecotherapy involves attending a formal programme where a trained therapist leads you through a series of activities to help use nature to improve your wellbeing. But for most of us, the health benefits of nature can be as easy as just being outdoors more.
Wilderness weekends, adventure activities, trekking, camping – they’re a great way to immerse yourself in all that nature has to offer. However, they aren’t for everyone. Myself included. (Glamping with more salubrious bathroom facilities for me!) So, how can you get more of those happy outdoorsy perks in your life (improved mental health and positivity, less stress, Vitamin D boost, ramped up energy levels, more mindful of the world around us) without having to canoe coast to coast.
You could exercise outside more or just do some simple stretches in your garden. You could get an allotment, start growing your own veg, plant up some window boxes, or go fruit picking. You could involve yourself in a local community conservation project or volunteer to look after the gardens of the elderly in your neighbourhood. If you’re of an arts and crafty disposition you could find a creative class that’s done outdoors. Or just discover more of what nature has to offer near where you live…visit a farm, stroll in the countryside, paddle in the sea, find your closest woods.
And if you can’t get outside more then why not try to bring more nature into your home (or work space). As you go about your day look out the window to see the sky more. Or find somewhere to sit with a view. Have photos of nature on your wall, on your desk, on your phone. Keep flowers and indoor plants. Listen to sounds of the sea.
Getting more in tune with nature is not going to be easy for some of us. And the daily grind will often get in the way. But perhaps you can find a few minutes today to sit in your garden or local green space – to stop, to listen, to notice the natural world around you. Do you think you can make time for some nurturing nature as part of your routine? Could you walk or cycle instead of using the car or the bus? Could you wrap up warm and eat your lunch in the park? How about having that catch up with a friend while you take the dog for a walk?
I hasten to add there are no Bear Grylls survival stories coming from me. I’m opting for small steps. So here are some of my ecotherapy moments from the last month…
- Got the waterproofs on and took the daughter puddle jumping
- Had a picnic dinner in the park
- Planted up our front garden with flowers (we’re taking part in a ‘Roads in Bloom’ community competition)
- Put up a bird feeder to encourage more flying friends into the garden
- Sat in the sunshine and savoured a quiet cuppa
- Spent a weekend in a Canopy & Stars cabin, surrounded by fields – and sheep
- Walked for 30minutes a day – whatever the weather
- Weeded the pavement in front of my house
- Wrote this blog post with a view of outside.
And as I’ve been going about my day I’ve tried to give less time to thoughts swirling round in my head. Instead I’ve taken more time to notice the nature around me. I’m mindfully taking big intakes of fresh air. I’m smelling the just-mown grass. I’m hearing the birds. I’m looking up at the trees that tower above me. In the past I wouldn’t have paid attention to a tree unless I accidently walked into it while busy on my phone. Now I’m stopping to take photos of trees – yes, the image for this post is one of my tree pics!
It’s early days but I’m going to try and bring more ‘natural zen’ into my life. As I come up with other ideas for getting your nature fix, I’ll link them to this post.
Let me know how you get on trying it. x
*There are of course limits to how nature can improve your life. If you’re suffering from depression or are really unhappy with life at the moment then please reach out and talk to someone.