We all feel better when we spend time in nature. Let’s explore how the great outdoors can help our mental health and recovery journey.
In our contemporary lives, we are often inundated by technology and endless parades of emails, text messages, social media, and artificial lighting. It’s easy to forget about the healing powers of nature and how we all have relatively easy access to a free mental health boost whenever we want. Whether it’s a local park in your city, the beach, the woods, or the mountains, getting back to nature is a wonderful way to reconnect with mother earth, yourself, and the world around you. Let’s discuss why getting back to nature is so vital for our mental health. Additionally, this article will explore simple ways to spend more time in nature.
Mental Health Benefits of Getting Outside
Spending time in nature comes with numerous benefits including reduced stress and anxiety, lower levels of stress hormones, a heightened immune system, and greater feelings of inner peace. Additionally, spending time in nature is associated with improved memory and more energy in general, as well as lower levels of inflammation. Inflammation is one of the major causes of disease, so this is huge. But perhaps one of the most important aspects of getting back to nature is the increased connection we feel — to ourselves, the universe, and others.
Reconnecting with Ourselves and Nature
John Muir once famously wrote: “The clearest way to the universe is through a forest wilderness.” When he said this, he was referring to nature’s immense capacity for connecting us to something larger. In our technology-laden world, we often forget that as humans, we are apart of nature. One of the quickest routes back to ourselves and our true essence is through a “forest wilderness” as Muir put it. When we return to ourselves and feel a strong sense of self-awareness, love, openness, and reverence, we, in turn, start to connect with the world around us.
Nature as a Higher Power
In recovery, we often discuss trusting in a “higher power.” This notion can be tricky or confusing for many of us, especially if we didn’t grow up in a religious or spiritual household or we feel uncomfortable using the word “god.” This is where nature comes in. Nature has much more power than us — she builds mountain ranges and contains millions of creatures, she has oceans and rivers and deserts and tornados. The natural world is both wondrous and scary, which makes it something to respect and revere, something to learn from and emulate. In turn, we could say that nature might be considered a “higher power.” If you trust in the glories of the natural world and find yourself benefiting from all that the wilderness has to offer, nature can start to be a healing spiritual force in your recovery.
One of the biggest challenges to getting out in nature is simply finding the time for it and devoting ourselves to it. Carving out a small slice of time in the morning or evening to walk in the woods, swim in the ocean, or lie in a park is simple and endlessly beneficial. You might start by penciling nature time into your schedule and committing to 20-30 minutes a day of peaceful time spend out in the natural world.
Practicing Mindfulness in Nature
Nature is a great place for meditative practice and increased self-awareness. Practicing mindfulness, which is simply the act of “being here now” and not judging your thoughts as they arise, is the perfect way to connect with the world around you. Next time you’re out in nature, try steadying your mind and quietly observing the sounds, smells, sights, and feelings that nature offers you. Engage all of your senses and stay fully present in the moment. Notice how you’re feeling and be specific about the sounds and sights in your vicinity. Maybe you hear the chirp of a bird or the rustling of leaves. Perhaps you see a patch of sunlight in the grass or a particularly beautiful cluster of trees. Whatever you observe, try to behold its beauty and set aside any thoughts about the past or future.
Connecting With the Rhythms of Natural Light
One of the simplest ways to connect with nature and its rhythms is to watch the sunrise and/or the sunset most days. When we let our eyes absorb the many natural patterns of light in the sunrise and sunset, it signals to our brain that it’s either time to wake up or go to sleep. Soon enough, our bodies will be syncing up with the rhythms of the natural world. Before we had iPhones or artificial light, we rose with the sun and turned in when the sun set below the horizon. When we get back to the primal rhythms of nature, we start to sync up with ourselves, as well.
Avalon Malibu is a world-renowned, California state-licensed mental health and substance abuse recovery center. If you are ready to seek treatment to develop the tools you need to overcome life’s obstacles and be on the road towards happiness, health, and well-being, call us today at 844-857-5992 for a consultation. It’s never too late, and there are people here ready to help you – it’s never too late to begin taking steps towards a happier, healthier life.