Why You Need Nature
When patients leave my office in Satellite Beach, it’s not uncommon for them to make a quick stop at the beach to debrief before returning to their day-to-day activities. In fact, I frequently stop by the beach on the way to work and on the way home. Being outdoors and immersed in nature can revive and invigorate us. It’s as if it hits the “reset” button in life.
Maybe there are lessons nature can teach us that we should incorporate into other areas of our life.
Whether you are sitting in the mountains or by the ocean, nature has a way of reminding us that there is something bigger than us. When we are facing the pressures of life — work, relationships, financial — it can lead to a lot of self-absorbed thoughts like, “Am I good enough,” “Am I being judged,” “Am I being appreciated,” and so on.
Having a moment to get out of your own head to notice the bigger picture can be freeing. Things in nature are interconnected. When we sit with nature, we naturally start to reflect on our role in the bigger picture and not in our own personal world.
We often associate nature with peacefulness. Even if there is noise, there is a quietness about the outdoors. It can strip us of manmade distractions. This type of environment allows our thoughts the space to surface and process. Many of us have experienced strong emotional reactions while in nature, because we are finally in a place quiet enough to notice our own feelings.
Physically, our bodies respond well to pure water, air, and sunshine. They offer oxygen, vitamins, and nutrients in the simplest of forms. This of course also applies to the things we ingest into our body, as well.
It’s no wonder why most health retreats or recovery centers are placed in beautiful environmental settings. The outdoors surrounding the facility is usually an effective marketing piece as we naturally find it appealing to our desire to heal.
This combination of mental and emotional shifts turns off our bodies’ stress response. We live in a forward-thinking society where it’s a race to see who can do the most, who can do the best, who can get things done the fastest. The result is that many of us live in a constant state of stress trying to just keep up with everyone around us. You may be so accustomed to living in this state that you are not even aware of your own stress response.
Unfortunately, even if you are accustomed to living in this state of mind, the strain it puts on your body is dangerous. When our body is under a stress response, it increases heart rate, which shortens breath (decreasing oxygen to brain and body), increases blood pressure, and triggers racing thoughts. Additionally, it shuts down any systems not needed for survival in the moment including digestive system, cell replacement and immune system.
Our bodies try to alert us of the damage being done with red flags including fatigue, headaches, muscle tension, appetite shifts, or gestational problems. When we ignore those signs or just put a bandaid on them instead of making necessary changes (like drinking more caffeine to compensate for lack of sleep), it leads to more severe consequences including heart attacks and diseases.
So outside of packing a tent and living in the outdoors 24/7, what’s the solution?
What if we were able to take some of the experience’s nature offers us and apply them to our daily lives? There are many ways we can be mindful of the bigger picture in life, carve out time to sit quietly and reflect on our thoughts, give space to allow emotions to surface, and provide our bodies with natural nutrients.
Here are some examples of how you might want to incorporate these natural experiences in your daily routine:
- Keep a gratitude journal to actively notice the gifts in your world.
- Volunteer to give back and connect with your community.
- Place live plants in your home and office.
- Replace the sounds of electronics with a water fountain.
- Drink lots of water and eat clean food to cleanse your system of processed products.
- Use all-natural beauty products.
- Exercise outdoors.
- Keep your space clean and simple.
- Take time regularly to relax and practice quieting your thoughts.
Mother nature is so powerful that when we are physically in a place surrounded by her beauty, we are almost jolted into a state of relaxation. When you notice the extreme difference between that state and your “normal” state, note that we have created that distance. We have created the pressure, distractions, and processed products.
We also have the power to redirect ourselves back toward nature and a healthier way of living. Making your health a priority is a choice. Not everyone will share this same value with you. I encourage you to embrace your health as a core value anyway. By doing so, you will not only live a longer more fulfilling life, you will be a healthy role model to inspire those around you.
“Many of us have experienced strong emotional reactions while in nature, because we are finally in a place quiet enough to notice our own feelings.”
Kristin Woodling, a licensed mental health counselor and certified marriage and family therapist, owns Pamper Your Mind, LLC in Satellite Beach. She is devoted to providing a confidential and elite therapeutic experience to professional women seeking healing, clarity, and balanced lifestyle for optimal health.