How to find calm in nature
I think we all instinctively know the calming power of nature, whether it’s taking a walk through a wood and seeing the spring flowers blossing, watching the leaves turn colour or noticing the first frost. Or making it down to the beach and looking out over the water to see the sunrise or sunset or watching the waves crash onto the sand. It can make us feel so much calmer and at peace – it’s possibly the natural world putting all of our worries and strife into some sort of perspective. The world and nature goes on… and so must we…
On my mission for a calmer life and to deal better with stress and anxiety, my go to is to spend time with nature wherever and whenever I can. Nothing resets me better than this and I’m lucky that I live in the beautiful Derbyshire countryside and can access lovely long countryside walks right outside my front door. But you can feel close to the natural world wherever you are – whether it’s through a pot plant, vase of flowers or even photos and pictures around your house.
Even a small patch of green space is proven to quieten our brain activity and make us feel more relaxed and calmer. Listening to birdsong is proven to speed up our recovery from being under harmful amounts of stress. Soil also contains a species of bacteria which has anti depressant qualities and studies have shown that getting your hands dirty in the garden or woodland can help to lift our mood – something to think about the next time your little ones come in covered in mud!
All of this is underpinned by Edward Wilson’s theory of biophilia – human beings’ innate affiliation to life and our basic need to connect with nature for mental, cognitive and spiritual development. This is why so many of us go for a walk by the sea to relax or have a picture of a waterfall as our screensaver. Intuitively we associate nature with healing.
A care home study found that residents with a view of trees had better physical and mental health than those without a view of trees. A hospital in Singapore has established a butterfly farm in the hospital grounds which is open to patients and the local community. There are also flower boxes on balconies and lots of natural light and it’s patient recovery rate has been consistently higher than other neighbourhood hospitals. I think there are lots of opportunities for us to integrate nature even further into healthcare settings just as the wonderful work that Forest Schools are undertaking is making such a difference for children.
Ultimately our society is increasingly becoming more focused on indoor activities where we have such a wide range of non stop and convenient screen based activities. If we could make just a small change to seek out nature more often, it’s proven that it will be better for the natural world, supporting eco and biodiversity and for us too – our immune systems will be boosted and our stress and anxiety levels will go down.
Here are three small and easy suggestions for getting closer to nature and bringing more calm into your life:
1. When you are out and about, wherever you are, look out for the natural world and the elements. It could be a beautiful flower, rain falling, watching a bird fly across the sky.
2. Stop and take in the scent of the earth after it has rained – it’s been proven that the scent activates areas of the brain associated with calm and relaxation.
3. Consider joining a community group linked to nature – this could be a walking group or gardening group or just go for a picnic with friends.