Nature for wellbeing
The theme for Mental Health Awareness Week 2021 is Nature.
Mark Rowland Chief Executive Mental Health UK says “It turns out that it is not just being in nature but how we open ourselves up and interact with nature that counts… even small contacts with nature can reduce feelings of social isolation and be effective in protecting our mental health, and preventing distress.”
Here is a summary of all my previous posts that explain how and why nature can benefit your wellbeing.
There will be other ways of course to enjoy nature, so why not do some research of your own and share what you find.
Neuroscientist, Fred Previc found that meditative states, trances, mystical or religious experiences are often accompanied by upward movements of the eyes. So, gazing at clouds helps raise our gaze.
Benefits of cloud gazing
Relaxation - it provides an opportunity to just relax and do nothing.
De-stressing - it allows your mind to focus on something other than your stressors. Gazing and forming objects from the shapes in the clouds uses a different area of your brain. It allows it to see the world from a different perspective and then allows you to view your stressors with more clarity.
Enhanced creativity - through seeing shapes and objects and simply decluttering your mind.
Mindful focus - giving your attention to what you see helps slow your breathing, reduce stress and improve concentration.
How to cloud gaze
Find a comfortable and safe place to sit or lie down.
Look up, gently relax your eyes to a soft focus and just observe the different cloud shapes, density, colours and movement. They might be fluffy, fleecy, feathery, wispy, misty, milky, foggy, dense, see through, dark, light, rolling, floating, rapidly or slowly moving.
When doing this with children, ask them to describe what they see and imagine the pictures the clouds are making.
To tap further into your creativity draw, paint or sculpt what you see.
Mindfulness in nature
Take five deep breaths And relax. Take time to enjoy a view wherever you are.
What natural items can you see?
What man made items can you see?
What colours can you see?
What textures can you see and feel?
What can you smell?
What can you feel, for example wind, rain, cool or warm air, sand in your toes, wet grass on your soles?
Can taste anything, for example the salty atmosphere of the sea?
This mindfulness activity helps reduce stress and anxiety because it forces you to just focus on the present moment - not worrying about the past or future.
Try it out.
Essentially it is placing your bare feet on grass, dirt, sand or in water to ground or electronically connect you to the earth. It is an ancient technique that has now been backed up by scientific research. Earthing science and grounding physics explain that these electrical charges from the earth can have positive effects on the body and can improve chronic fatigue, chronic pain, anxiety and depression, sleep issues and cardiovascular disease.
You can read more in the article here.
Why not try a few weeks of standing barefoot in a safe area of grass, dirt or water every day for a few minutes to see what benefits it brings you. If you are stuck inside you can purchase a grounding mat.
Shinrin-yoku: forest bathing
Many people report that time sitting still in the woods with eyes closed listening to nature and breathing in the air makes them feel calmer and healthier. Read about the Japanese practice of shinrin-yoku: forest bathing in the article here to discover all the mental and physical benefits.
The Dutch practice of uitwaaien, translates to outblowing and is when the Dutch exercise, for example, walk or bike ride, in the wind. It clears their mind, refreshes and destresses. You can read more about the benefits of uitwaaien in the article here.
Energy in nature
Various emotions of our own and those we share a space with can circulate around affecting us positively or negatively. A self care strategy is to take some time to find something beautiful from nature to look at and absorb its energy. This might be a vase of flowers, a plant in your garden or in a pot on your balcony, a feather, a shell, or pinecone for example.
Find a quite spot and really observe your item.
Look at it's colours, shape, pattern, texture and size.
What does it remind you of?
How does it makes you feel?
If you are interested in learning more about the healing powers of vibrational energy then have a look at our practitioner’s Yorkshire Flower Essences website . They also had a lovely write up in the ILKLEY gazette introducing their new Verbia river essences. These help with renewed thinking, a fresh approach and way forward. Perfect for planning now and after lockdown. Have a read.
Follow the tips in this walking meditation article to make your walks a self care ritual. If you enjoy this activity why not schedule it more regularly. It’s good for your mind and body.
Colours in nature
Colour psychology can help create positive emotional experiences for you. Go for a walk or look of your window and find things in different colours, for example leaves, flowers, grasses, rocks or the sky.
Looking at RED creates a sense of energy, strength and passion. Think about what’s on your to-do list whilst looking at red and you’ll be propelled into action.
Contemplate something you want to feel more positive about when looking at YELLOW initiates optimism and makes you feel happy.
As a combination of red and yellow, ORANGE helps balance your energy. If you have something you are procrastinating over or trying not to think about, looking at orange can help you consider the pros and cons and then appropriate action to take.
If you need to feel grounded, look at BROWN as it induces a sense psychological safety because brown doesn’t evoke strong emotions. Looking at brown might help you feel down to earth and with your feet on the ground.
You can also practice some other mindfulness techniques whilst walking out in nature. Stop somewhere safe and close your eyes.
What can you hear?
What can you smell?
Now open your eyes and look for different textures to feel.
Here in ILKLEY, Climate Action have produced a tree trail to help you experience the wonderful trees in our area. You can download the map here. Elsewhere, Forestry England has provided a resource to find the best autumn walks near you. Or just go for a walk in your own area and see what trees and colours you can find.
Please seek professional advice if you are in a current mental or emotional crisis. Call your doctor to direct you to the best source of help and support.
Always seek qualified practitioners and always check with your doctor before undertaking new therapies.