Whether it’s walking on the beach, sitting under a tree watching the sun dance on the leaves, or kayaking the Indian River Lagoon, being outdoors nurtures our body, mind, and spirit. Even during illness we can benefit from sitting outside for a few minutes. If we’re confined indoors, turning off our digital gadgets and sitting by a window that gives a view of the sky, trees, and flowering plants will still give a boost to our brains and bodies. Bringing green or flowering plants indoors will also improve our overall sense of well-being.
Nature is a calming elixir available to us whenever we choose to step outside or bring it indoors. David Gessner wrote in National Geographic, “Science is proving what we’ve always known intuitively: nature does good things for the human brain – it makes us healthier, happier, and smarter.” With time in nature, our brain’s command center can dial down and rest, enhancing peace, empathy, and connectivity.
For me, nature has always been essential to my well-being. It is my therapist when I need to de-stress, my inspiration when I need a vitality boost, and a comfort when I need to work through loss. In nature I feel a connection with something greater than myself and a bond with other life forms. This is deeply nurturing.
During this time of COVID and heightened anxiety, we can use a dose of “forest bathing,” which is widely done in Japan. This is a leisurely walk through a forest, park, or bamboo grove, taking in the atmosphere of the trees around us. This lowers both pulse rate and blood pressure, decreases the stress hormone cortisol, and increases immune function. Spending time with trees also helps reduce inflammation in our bodies. Inflammation is behind many of our illnesses, so this is encouraging news.
I recently came across an article titled “10 Unexpected Benefits of Spending Time in Nature” by Allison Dienstman that features results of studies on this topic. For instance, a University of Michigan study revealed that regular walking enhanced memory retention. Now that’s one I can use! As little as five minutes a day outside can help reduce stress, and only 20 minutes of sunshine will increase levels of Vitamin D, which strengthens bones and helps the body resist disease. In addition to strengthening the immune system, time spent in natural light improves our sleep pattern. Engaging in outdoor activities that we enjoy boosts our mood, so we feel happier. I like to bike, walk, and kayak. What are your favorite outdoor activities?
Too much time on our various screens can damage our eyesight, but time outdoors supports our vision. All the colors, shapes, smells, and textures found in nature are inspiring, and this boosts our creativity. John P. Milton writes, “Today, our modern world is filled with high-tech wonders. When we leave these tensions for a while to cultivate our natural wholeness in the wild, we are renewed with the fresh vitality and spirit of Nature. New pathways open for living in harmony with our communities and the Earth. We discover deep inspiration to help transform our lifestyles and our culture toward harmony and balance.”
Nurturing through nature develops us spiritually because we clear our minds of clutter as we take time to see sun sparkles on the water, feel the breeze on our skin, or watch the tiny gecko running in front of us. When we’re quietly relaxed outdoors, our brain waves become similar to the brain waves experienced in meditation, so we feel refreshed, renewed, and connected to our Higher Power.
Nature is a meaningful metaphor for resiliency. When a forest fire happens, the forest regrows and regenerates. It will always recover, heal, and begin again, which is symbolic of how we can overcome our difficult experiences. A river can remind us to go with the flow, while a birdsong is an invitation to stay in the moment. We aren’t just observers of nature, we are a part of nature. It is instinctive to take steps to nourish ourselves because we are a harmonious part of the whole. Let’s make spending more time in nature a habit, and, when life circumstances keep us indoors, let’s bring nature indoors by taking care of a plant, purchasing an orchid, or bringing inside a shell or rock that speaks to us. We can tour gardens online. Nurturing through nature doesn’t cost us anything but a little time, and the payback is tremendous. There’s nothing to lose and much to gain. Maybe I’ll see you on my next walk.
Until Next Time – Sylvia