Nature is Good Medicine
Updated: May 3, 2020
Not sure why, but this past week I felt a little out of sorts.
A low level of anxiousness resided in my body and mind that seemed to not have any specific source.
We all have those days and weeks where there is just a nervous tension and everything feels just a bit more stressful. When I am experiencing this, I can usually pinpoint some specific events or situations that are creating anxiety, and once I know what the source is, I can work through it and find a way to shake the mental yuck.
Oddly, this week I couldn’t really figure out what it was. Nothing unusual was going on, normal daily stresses and concerns, but nothing that I thought would create a real change in how I was feeling.
I finally gave up on trying to figure it out and fix it, and decided to simply do something to see if I could shift it without worrying about the “why”. Once I let go of trying to actively “fix” it, sure enough, I started to feel a shift. I surrendered, and accepted that I was just feeling a little lower in mood, and it didn’t really matter “why”. It’s actually ok to feel low periodically. I let go of an expectation that I needed to feel differently and just accepted where I was this week. It was an excellent lesson from ancient yogic philosophies; acceptance, surrender, and non-judgment.
Once I got to the place that it was ok to feel a little low (around mid-week), I decided to simply take some extra care of myself, and be intentional about doing things that might make me feel better, using my intuition as my guide. Initially, this involved taking my morning coffee outside to the deck. I immediately started to feel lighter; less anxious; more peaceful. I noted that, and continued to experiment with going outside periodically over the next 2-3 days. By the end of the week, my mood shifted and I felt much more of my normal self. Amazing! But here’s the thing: research shows that being in nature improves our mental health and lowers our risk for depression. A study done at Stanford found that participants who walked in a natural setting vs. an urban city environment experienced different neural activity in the prefrontal cortex that led to an improved emotional state amongst the natural setting walking group. It is not coincidence that my mood and stress level changed after spending even just a little time outdoors in nature. Mental health experts are encouraging spending time in nature to be one of the best ways to combat stress and anxiety.
There is something magical about being outside, amongst the trees, birds, and the organic world that surrounds us, and it doesn’t need to take a lot of extra time commitment to experience this. Consider spending a few minutes every day outside. Maybe that becomes your five minutes of mindfulness each day, being still amongst nature. On the weekends, consider finding a new park to explore. Or, maybe go to your local nursery and just walk around amongst the plants and trees. I discovered a koi pond at one of our local nurseries here in Columbus, Ohio this week as I was shopping for some trees to add to our backyard; it was an unexpected joy to just watch the fish; definitely a few moments of unexpected mindfulness. Beauty and nature is all around us – you don’t have to go far or work hard to find it. Give it a try and notice what happens!
Have a healthy & mindful week!