In Our Nature: 3 Ways to Revisit this Emotional Wellness Resource

In Our Nature: 3 Ways to Revisit this Emotional Wellness Resource

In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks.

John Muir

In trying hard to live our best story, we’re constantly on the lookout for the next, best, new thing, aren’t we?

The thing that’s going to make life fuller. More stimulating. Juuust a bit easier.

It’s part of what makes us human.

And yet, in the course of all that searching, we tend to over-complicate things.

If we’re not careful, it’s easy to forget:

Sometimes the most powerful solutions are the simplest.
Sometimes what we’re searching for is right in front of us. All around us.

This is certainly true when it comes to emotional wellness:

Some of the most healing resources in existence are accessible to us anytime we want:

The power of empathy.
The power of laughter.
The power of No.
The power of Thank you.

And the power of nature.

In celebration of Earth Day this week, we’re highlighting 3 simple ways you can revisit our most precious (and most overlooked) emotional wellness resource:

1. Sights.

Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better.

Albert Einstein

Nature is undeniably pleasing to look at.

A perfect achievement in design. Effortlessly beautiful.

But nature isn’t just a pretty face.

Contained in all that beauty is incredible potential to heal.

To bring us back to our center.

To help us reconnect with what we’ve been missing. 

To open our eyes to new possibilities.

And look…

(Seriously, look up right now!)

…it’s right outside your door!

Some ideas:

  • Regain perspective.
    • Feeling like the weight of the world is on your shoulders? Like you’re responsible for everyone and everything at once? Go for a walk in the woods and stare up at the trees’ height. Stand at the edge of a lake, or look up at the sky and feel how small you are compared to their awesome expansiveness.
    • Feeling powerless? Pick a blade of grass, or scoop up a handful of sand, and notice how tiny the details look in your hand.
    • Feeling lost or disconnected? Sit or stand barefoot on the earth, and feel yourself being grounded by it’s gravity.
  • Stuck indoors for awhile? Watch a wildlife documentary (e.g., Planet Earth) to immerse yourself in nature without leaving your couch!

2. Sounds.

The earth has music for those who listen.

George Santaya

Ever wondered why you feel so relaxed listening to waves crash on a beach? Or rain hitting the window as you lie in bed?

Research suggests it’s because these sounds physically alter the connections in our brains, reducing our body’s innate “fight-or-flight” instinct.

One study found that listening to artificial sounds (e.g., the copy machine at work, the TV at home, the traffic on your commute) is associated with inward-focused attention, like worrying about stressful aspects of one’s life.

Nature sounds, on the other hand, result in more external-focused attention, such as increased awareness of one’s surroundings, and heightened appreciation of others.

Think you’re too high-strung to feel the effects?

You’re in luck: The more stressed you are to begin with, the greater the impact of even a brief dose of nature sounds.

Some ideas:

  • Adjust your ears. Most of us have become desensitized to the onslaught of sounds we experience in a typical day. Give your ears (and your mind) a break by taking a walk outside. Leave the earbuds behind and be patient while you adjust to the quiet around you. Notice how you feel when you return.
  • Rethink white noise. You may be so accustomed to the sound of that copy machine or the TV in the background that actual silence feels a bit strange to you. If you need some background noise, try replacing those sounds with quiet nature sounds (many apps, like Calm, have a variety of free options) and see if you feel a difference.
  • Embrace silence. You don’t have to sit on a hilltop meditating to experience the benefits of silence. Even short periods of mindfulness practice can create powerful changes to your well-being. (Need help getting started? Apps like Headspace offer free 3-, 5-, and 10-minute guided meditations.)

3. Sun.

There is a sunrise and a sunset every day and you can choose to be there for it. You can put yourself in the way of beauty.

Cheryl Strayed

The sun has officially returned to Minnesota(!!!), and you may have noticed that biking trails and restaurant patios are suddenly filled with happy people.

This isn’t a coincidence. The sun’s role in healthy mood regulation (via Vitamin D absorption) is well-documented, and most of us don’t get nearly enough.

So, whether you’re someone who struggles with seasonal depression or someone who simply struggles with endless winters, the sunshine is good for all of us.

Some ideas:

  • Get outside! Even 15 minutes of (non-sunscreened) sun exposure each day is enough to reap the benefits.
  • Ditch the gym. Too busy to sit in the sun? Multitask by taking your exercise outdoors while you soak up the rays.
  • Find a window. If you’re driving, roll down the window for a bit. If you’re working, try relocating to a sunny spot if you can.
  • Enjoy a side of tech with your sunshine? You can track your sun exposure and estimated Vitamin D levels with apps like dminder.