Nature is the one thing that has helped me most during lock down…

When I take time to reflect on our current reality, I realise how truly bizarre the last few months have been and continue to be. We have all been impacted by corona virus but the experience of it is different for each of us with a whole manor of different emotions consuming our time. The days that we feel relieved that life has slowed down, thankful for the people that are safe and well, paired with days where we feel confused, anxious, stressed, scared and sad. The days we grieve for people or for the ‘normal’ life that feels so long ago and the days that we reflect, the days we reminisce and the days we feel helpless and overwhelmed.

At a time of such uncertainty and instability, what has been helping you during lock down?

For me, the one thing that has consistently helped me over the last three months, more than ever before has been time and space outside. There is something so powerful about connecting with nature that quickly helps to ground us, to put everything into perspective. Nature has this way of reminding us of our own insignificance and that we are part of a wider world. It offers the opportunity to temporarily disconnect from whatever is weighing us down – our to do lists, daily tasks and our own personal struggles.

So, why does it have this impact? What are the benefits of nature and being outside?

There are a growing number of studies putting forward evidence that a connection with nature makes us healthier and happier people. A recent evaluation of the UK’s first month-long nature challenge, which involved people “doing something wild” every day for 30 consecutive days, shows scientifically and statistically how significant nature really is.

Lets break it down…

Our mind…

The things that once firmly held the minds attention, often gain some sense of clarity or a new take. Our sense of ‘I’ begins to feel more connected to the world around us, rather than us having a sense of separation to it. Connecting with our senses, our physical being, helps to settle and slow down the busy thoughts. It also gives us a sense of achievement, engaging in a meaningful activity helps to boost our motivation and mindset.

Our body…

When we do more exercise, we are more able to maintain a healthy weight and BMI, it is good for our heart, our lungs, our blood pressure, out mobility and our overall physical health and well-being.

Our emotional well-being…

When we exercise, our brain releases serotonin which increase feelings of well-being and can improve our mood. Not only that but sun exposure tops up our vitamin D levels, which helps to balance our hormones.

Spending time outside also gives us an opportunity to improve our social and emotional growth such as building our self-awareness, resilience and confidence, as we allow time and space from being on autopilot and we take time to pause, reflect, recharge and restart again. In this busy and confusing world, it is hugely beneficial to give yourself permission to have some time out…and give that permission to whoever is around you too.  

Our relationships…

Do you ever find that when you go on a walk with someone, you end up ‘putting the world to rights’ and having the most meaningful conversations? There is something about being outside, in space, in nature and along side someone you care about that makes us feel able to connect to who we are with and talk openly and freely.

Children and young people…

Being outside ignites curiosity in children and young people and invites active exploration. It helps to improve motor skills, helps to build a healthy sensory system, improve concentration and provides an opportunity for imaginary play which stimulates creativity.

Our planet…

Being outside fosters curiosity and a sense of awe and wonder of the natural world. If we make connections with nature, we value the environment and the world we live in more and we look after the things we love and care about, right?

What can we do to find that connection with nature?

Time outside…

Find a garden, park or green space available to you or you may choose to drive to a nearby lake, forest or beach. As you stand, sit or walk, become aware of the nature around you. Allow yourself to open your heart, your lungs and your senses to the beauty of wherever you are. See the different types of trees, grass, flowers or leaves, hear the birds call, the wind and the distant rumble of traffic, sense the air moving over your skin or the sun heating your face.

Be curious about what is around you; pay attention to what you can see, hear, smell, the people, the animals, the sights and the colours and sounds. How does it feel? What do you notice? What is the temperature like? What is going on for you in those moments – how do you feel? Don’t try to make meaning from whatever you experience, just make a mental note of it.

Choose a natural object…

Find a flower, insect, or tree for example. Relax, take time and be curious about the object like you have never seen it before. Visually explore every aspect of it and connect with its role in the natural world for as long as your concentration lets you.

Watch a sunset or sunrise…

There are few things more special than the feeling of watching a day start or end. Aside from its natural beauty…it powerfully reminds us that each and every day offers us a new end and a new beginning. Quietly and peacefully enjoy the different colours, shapes, sizes, shadows and the spirit of the sun.

So, now we’ve broken it down, it’s no surprise really that when I go for a walk each morning, and spend time in the garden for at least an hour each day…that I feel so much better for it. I know the impact it has on my physical, emotional well-being and sense of self. If I don’t do this… I can feel it in my mind and my body. It impacts my mood, my motivation, my mindset, and how positive or negative my thoughts are.

If you don’t already…think about how you can make a start to incorporating nature into your life and the lives of those you live with. Start small, see how it impacts on you.

“Our task must be to free ourselves… by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature and it’s beauty.”
― Albert Einstein

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