Your typical meditation session will often include visualization that sounds like this:
You walk along a wooded path.
Birds sing in the trees that surround a green meadow.
You hear the waves breaking on the sand.
But it never sounds like this.
You are walking on a crowded sidewalk. A horn honks as you step into the street towards a moving vehicle.
There is a reason meditation often begins with visions of natural settings. Nature has a calming effect that helps you connect with yourself and your spirituality. In fact, some people proclaim to find themselves by getting lost in the woods. Once in natural settings, we learn to become grateful for the simplest of things like the colors on a butterfly’s wings or the way the trees sway in the wind without breaking.
Nature Provides Social, Mental, and Physiological Benefits
Over the years, research has found that connecting with the natural world has several positive benefits.
Social: It increases kindness, generosity, and compassion for self and others. Encourages connection both inwardly to ourselves and outwardly to those around us.
Mental: It helps with depression, reduces stress and anxiety, and encourages gratitude.
Physiological: It improves heart health, cholesterol levels, and autoimmune disease. Nature promotes physical activities associated with better health, and the added sunlight provides vitamin D to protect against osteoporosis and diabetes. Finally, it is believed to improve hospital recovery rates.
How to Reconnect with Nature
The good news is that you can get the benefits that nature provides by taking these simple steps to reconnect with your natural surroundings.
Take a Nature Walk
Getting off the beaten path and onto the natural one can help if you suffer from depression. Nature can uplift your mood and increase motivation and energy levels. Taking nature walks also improves your physical health by adding exercise to your day.
Turn Nature into a Hobby
Not sure what to do on a nature walk? Try adding nature photography or bird watching. Take along your camera and a book on natural environments. This could be a book on birds, plants, or animals in your area. Then watch for them and try to capture their appearance on your camera. You can later add those pictures to a nature journal.
You can also turn nature exploration into a treasure hunt. For example, read up on the types of mushrooms that grow in your area. Then go for a walk in the woods and see how many you can identify. You can take samples or pictures of each one, or for an added benefit, learn about their healing properties and gather some for personal use. Be careful, however. Many mushrooms are poisonous for human consumption. You may want to verify your findings with a professional before trying them on your own.
Start a Garden
If you have the space, you can start a garden. Even apartment dwellers with limited space can grow a small container garden on their outdoor patio. Digging in the dirt to plant tomatoes, peppers, or melons not only relieves stress, but it also produces healthy vegetables that you can be proud to eat.
An additional benefit of gardening is that exposure to dirt can have unexpected but favorable outcomes. An article in Medical News Today reports that research performed by scientist David Strachan led to the “hygiene hypothesis” which suggests “that the more people’s modern lives distance them from the land and contact with farm animals, [the more] their bodies miss out on the collaboration with microorganisms. This damages the immune system and increases the risk of allergy and asthma.” https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/325357#Another-side-of-the-hygiene-effect
It’s not always possible to take your work outside, but when it is, doing so can help to create a more relaxing work environment. Instead of meeting a new client indoors at a restaurant or in your office, try meeting them at a café with an outdoor sitting area. If your office has a lawn with a bench, you can hold interviews there.
When the weather permitted, I sometimes taught classes outside. Students were more engaged and livelier. Similarly, holding a meeting outside may give your team a different perspective and provide you with new and exciting ideas for your next project.
Write in a Nature Journal
Whether you create poetry, describe a tree, sketch the veins in a flower petal, or simply take note of your feelings after a walk in nature, keeping a nature journal helps you to connect with and document your outdoor experience. Writing about the smallest details increases focus, mindfulness, and gratitude, bringing you overall joy. Don’t forget to include your nature photography in your journal.
Skip the Gym
Skipping the gym does not necessarily mean skipping the exercise. Rather, try getting it outside. Instead of hitting the treadmill, take a run through the park. Forget laps in the pool. An open water swim is a more challenging workout and a great change of pace. In fact, there are many ways you can take your exercise outside including bike riding, inline skating, and yoga under the trees. However, if your gym isn’t too far from home and you still feel the need for a weight workout, you can simply turn to walking, jogging, or bike riding to the gym as opposed to driving. It will give you time outdoors as well as add a cardiovascular element to your workout.
Sometimes finding nature is as simple as stepping out your front door. Even in busy cities such as San Francisco or New York, you can find elements of nature simply by going outside. In fact, city developers are mindful of the importance of a natural green landscape, so they often include it in their architecture. You may find a tree growing in the middle of the sidewalk or entire city blocks such as Golden Gate Park and Central Park dedicated to creating a natural setting for residents.
Next time you head outside, take a minute to stop and look for nature. Close your eyes and listen to the birds sing or locate a butterfly and watch how it floats around a bush. These are aspects of nature that occur everywhere. We only need to take a moment to focus on them to receive the benefits.
It’s Time to Take Action
Getting back to nature doesn’t mean you have to plan a trip to the Amazon Rain Forest or hike the Appalachian Trail. In fact, it can be found everywhere with little effort, so go ahead, give yourself the social, mental, and physiological benefits that nature offers by taking the time to connect with the beauty of the great outdoors.
For one more way to add nature to your life, head on over to our YouTube channel and listen to the Spirituals Life “Open Your Heart” meditation music.