With the Corona Virus all around we’re all interested in ways to support our health and immunity. One key component is to reduce the amount of long term stress we feel. There is substantial evidence of the therapeutic benefit of being with and in nature in reducing stress and the support it gives recovering from illness.
Whilst taking exercise outside is good for us physically, we can also hugely benefit mentally by simply ‘being’ in nature. The distinction between being and doing is important here and is the key to de-stressing. Often we are not familiar with the value, concept and experience of mental space that ‘being’ creates and so it can be perceived as timewasting or purposeless. Learning the skills of ‘being’ helps us to be more relaxed around challenge and difficult feelings and less likely to use habitual busyness as a strategy to avoid them. Such an internal gear shift can have far reaching impact. We can begin to learn to move from stress mode to balance mode and have a greater resilience around looking after ourselves and those around us.
How to do this?
Nature gives us an immediate and diverse sensory landscape to help us connect to an experience of ‘being’. When we take a pause, stop for a moment and either sitting or standing allow ourselves to close our eyes, we become aware of another dimension to our experience. Try listening to birdsong, hearing the rustle of leaves, the breeze on your face, the coolness of your in-breath, the warmth of your out-breath, the texture of what you touch, the smells of Spring. If you are walking, become aware of the changing soundscape, smell-scape and feeling beneath your feet as you walk across the earth. Different parts of our brain begin to be activated as we expand our awareness in this way, reducing the level of stress we feel. The benefits increase with time and regularity of practice.
What to do if you can’t get outside?
Try to rest in a room that has a view of nature and if that’s not possible, research has shown that listening to the sound of nature, even a recording, has a wonderful destressing effect and can be particularly helpful getting to sleep. Sit back, close your eyes and lose yourself in the sound of it all. If you’re not sure where to start, try searching for one of these online: water sounds and birdsong, rain and thunder, seashore waves, whale song.
It’s important for us all to recognize that we can have a positive impact on the stress we feel, that we can activate an innate capacity within ourselves, and to help us, we have the most wonderful friend in nature.