How often do you stop to relax and recharge your own batteries?
In a world of complex ‘wicked’ problems, it can feel difficult to take time out. However, if you are feeling run down, disengaged, or struggling with anxiety or sleep, it is a good sign that you need to pay attention to your self-care. Please note, these tips don’t replace the services or a counsellor or psychologist, but they will help you to manage your own mental health.
Evidence shows that taking time out in nature can reduce stress, lower blood pressure, and improve a sense of wellbeing. We instinctively know that it is good for us, but how many of us need a prompt to do what is good for us?!
5 ways to utilise nature-based therapies to enhance wellbeing:
1. Take a SLOW walk in the forest or on the beach. This is not the time to power walk. Pay attention to the sights, smells, sounds around you. Breathe deeply. Allow yourself to become fully immersed in your surroundings, noticing the smallest things – the patterns on a leaf, the trails left by ants, or the way a breeze creates ripples across the water. Shinrin-yoku or Forest Bathing, is becoming more widely known, and has been shown to deliver measurable health benefits.
2. Green exercise takes the gym workout to the outdoors. Alongside the well-known benefits of exercise, you will be out in the fresh air, enjoying your environment. You can join an outdoor fitness class, an outdoor yoga session, or go for a walk, jog, or ride through a local park. If you join a friend or group, there are also social benefits.
3. Horticulture or garden therapy cultivates wellbeing through plant-based activities. Pot up some seedlings, grow a few herbs, or connect with your local community garden.
4. Develop a regular journalling practice to record your experiences with the natural world. Writing, drawing, collage, or any activities that capture your imagination can help you focus on the immediate moment, and provide a respite from day to day busy-ness. Take your journal with you and spend some time sitting quietly and observing nature around you.
5. If you are not able to get outside, then bring some nature indoors. Add some healthy plants to your home or office. If you have a notoriously brown thumb, then a bunch of fresh flowers each week will bring a smile to your face. Essential oils can also have an uplifting effect. Make sure they are pure and not synthetic, and that your burner doesn’t pose a safety risk.
Nature can be found in the smallest of spaces, if we just take the time to pay attention. For those of you working in challenging industries, taking the time to care for yourself is vital to your longevity in the workplace, as well as the intrinsic benefits of caring for yourself and those around you.
(*White, M.P., Alcock, I., Grellier, J. et al. Spending at least 120 minutes a week in nature is associated with good health and wellbeing. Sci Rep 9, 7730 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-019-44097-3)