If we could spend two hours a week in natural surroundings, awakening and connecting to our senses, it seems nature will do its part to help us improve our mental, emotional and physical welfare. Accordingly, creating ways to build new habits to integrate nature into our lives can be indispensable.
A study led by environmental psychologist, Mathew White of the European Centre for Environment & Human Health at the University of Exeter, found that a couple of hours per week spent in nature can improve our mental health and our overall well-being. So how do we integrate nature’s medicine into our busy lives at a time when the world is adjusting to the stressors of a new global climate? Following are 6 tips for connecting busy professionals with nature.
Consider a relationship with nature.
For years, psychology has examined our relationships to self, family and others. After all, our personal and interpersonal relationships are the foundation of life from the moment we are born. Viewing nature as a relational partner is the first step in welcoming the healing it offers.
China for example, has a long history of cultivating a relationship between humans and nature. The two, are seen as intertwined and inseparable. Pre-dating the Common Era, seekers viewed nature as sacred, often turning to revered mountains for longevity, renewal and connectivity. In many regions of China, this is still practiced in some form today. Yet, the relationship remains a challenge for city dwellers and full-time workers. Hence, creating the opportunity to build this relationship in a feasible way matters.
Begin a relationship with nature.
Life is made up the elements of nature itself: earth, water, fire and space. Each element is found in the different structures in the body. In essence, we are as much the earth as it is us. This balance of this relationship is integral to our wellness. However, when our lives become entrenched in stress and survival, this link to our very essence is often forgotten. Disconnecting from nature is disconnecting from ourselves.
The good news is that nature is always there, as a potent remedy for the spirit to resync into harmony and balance. When we are first introduced to a relationship, whether romantic, platonic or professional, we enter by slowly getting to know our environment and those in it. This same tactic can be used to employ your relationship to nature if you don’t already have one. Though immersion is the key, you may want to start by taking a mindful walk. This is a time to put your phone down and consider taking a moment to truly notice your natural surroundings. Perhaps you will allow yourself to stop along the way and observe a particular tree, notice its roots, maybe feel its bark, touch a leaf or view the space between the branches. Stand by and see what else you notice. Perhaps observe if any feelings surface. Lastly, let it be. There is nothing to achieve.
Bring nature to work.
At work, a community sitting spot can be dedicated with a few plants and perhaps an inspiring quote about nature. Make this a deliberate area where colleagues can contribute, stop by and connect around this space. The setup can be something as simple as a window ledge or a small table that creates a conscious space where employees can pause and build community, maybe take a breath and connect.
Furthermore, consider offsites and incentives that bring nature into the work culture as a value that acknowledges wellness amongst employees and your company. Encourage walks or offsite meetings in natural surroundings. Most of all, be transparent about the value of interacting with natural environments by discussing the positive impact on reduction of stress, anxiety and depression, as well as promoting a revitalization of energy and well-being.
Tend to nature at home.
Whether it means tending to your indoor, outdoor garden or listening to sounds of nature as you move about your home, remind yourself to consciously step into a moment with nature. Visit parks more often, find a place among the grasses to eat and gather with family and friends. Put your hands into the soil of a plant, maybe allow your feet to ground outside and remember to breathe and tune into the symphony of nature that already exists within.
Play with nature.
Embrace the child within and perhaps touch a leaf, pick up sticks, smell the flowers, hold your face to the skies and step outside at least once daily. Buy a plant that is dedicated to this connection where you consciously water, nurture and watch it grow. Play music for your plant, bring it to different angles of light, maybe even speak to it. Allowing fun, helps our thoughts release judgments which is indeed a pathway to a healthy relationship.
Finally, it behooves us stay the course in growing our relationship with nature. Our connection to our world is the platform of stability upon which we stand. When we feel connected, life is a little lighter, our relationships a little smoother and our sense of joy falls into a regular flow. Now more than ever we must tap into the medicine of the earth to heal ourselves and each other. Remember, humans are wired for connection. It is as essential as the breath. Find a moment to breath in nature.
If you’d like to learn more about mental health modalities that align with nature you may want to explore books such as, Ecopsychology by Theodore Roszak, Nature Therapy by Howard Clinebell or Ecotherapy by Linda Buzzell or link to Dr. Mathew White’s publications at: https://www.ecehh.org/people/dr-mathew-white/ .
Claudia de Llano, M.A. is a Marriage and Family Therapist and Mental Health Consultant. A healer of the heart, Claudia helps individuals and organizations discover insights and inspiration that awaken wholeness and growth. By compassionately guiding people into a remembrance of who they already are, she endeavors to evoke recentring and wholeness of spirit.
Claudia’s expertise is embedded in deep multicultural understanding and mind-body-spirit integration. Believing that each individual is capable of tapping into their true nature, her passion inspires people to discover their own psychology and their unique life path.