The hustle and bustle of daily living can bring with it a lot of sensory stimulation. Bright or flashing lights, honking horns, traffic, crowds, billboards, the aroma of food from restaurants or street vendors, and the stench of trash or exhaust fumes among others. For some of us these may be pleasant, for others unpleasant. Regardless, one thing most of us can agree on is that they are stimulating, invigorating, energizing and sometimes overwhelming. What they lack is a sense of being surrounded with peace, calm, and relaxation.
Being energized within the commotion is inviting at times, even exciting! Yet sometimes we just long for some peace and quiet – a space to withdraw from the ruckus, to rest and relax. In those times finding your sanctuary, a special place for you to retreat to can be so very helpful. Even more so if you can experience it in nature.
The benefits of surrounding ourselves in the natural world are plentiful from improving our health (lowering blood pressure and heart rate while boosting our immune system), nourishing our brains (increased attention, concentration and creativity), enhancing our mood (greater positivity with decreased anxiety and depression), reducing stress (decreases stress hormones to help us feel calmer and more peaceful), and supporting meaningful connection with ourselves and others (more collaboration, cooperation and kindness). Beyond that is an opportunity to connect differently to our senses of, smell, sight, taste, touch, and sound.
The natural world is full of smells. As in the city, some of those we may enjoy and others not so much. The sense of smell is strongly associated with memory and emotions thereby impacting the way in which we experience the world around us. Imaging the earthy smells of wood, dirt, and grass may take you back to a fun hike you had with friends or the time you went camping with your family. Maybe that is something you would enjoy relishing again? A variety of fragrant flowers in nature can illicit feelings of calm, peace, and happiness. Can’t get away, try bringing flowers or a plant home, diffusing essential oils (rosewood, cedar, clove), or burning a candle (sage, sandalwood, pine).
There is such richness in the beauty of the natural world. You can experience it hiking on a mountain, swimming in the ocean, camping in a forest, marveling at a waterfall, or playing at the park. Seeing nature, or even viewing scenes of nature, reduces anger, fear, and stress while improving mood and increasing relaxation. So, if you can’t get to nature, bring it to you. Open your windows and peek outside, look at pictures or watch a video of nature, get a poster or draw a picture of your favorite landscape.
Thinking of tasting nature sounds counter-intuitive, especially to those of us educated on avoiding the beautiful forest berries or magic mushrooms. But what about fresh apples or juicy oranges from the orchard, grapes from the vineyard, edible flowers in our salads, vegetables from our garden? How about those campfire chilis or late-night s’mores? Looking to get a taste at home, try some goodies from the local farmer’s market or enjoy a cup of chamomile, mint, or jasmine tea.
The value of touch is familiar in hugs from a loved one, cuddles from a partner, pats on the back from a co-worker, or relaxing massages. Not only can touch soothe us but it provides ongoing information about the world around us – is something hot or cold, hard or soft, painful or pleasant, etc. Connecting to nature via touch can be walking barefoot in the park, dipping our toes into a river or the ocean, or hugging a tree. Need something closer to home? Try softly rubbing a flower petal, packing a snowball, or dancing in the rain and feeling the drops on your skin.
The sounds of nature are all around us. Birds chirping, wind blowing, and water streaming among others. Natural sounds help us feel safe, and in that safety, we can find serenity and peace. So calming are these natural sounds that we often use them in recordings for meditation and relaxation. Getting outside and immersing in the sounds of nature can be extremely healing after a long and stimulating day. Can’t get far, open your window, sit on your porch or in your backyard, take a walk around the block, or play your favorite nature track.
The take home message is opportunities to engage in, and with, nature are abundant and guided by your imagination and interest. Spend a few minutes identifying your favorites so you can remember them the next time you are longing for a bit of peace and tranquility.
Need some extra help, motivation, and encouragement? WeHeal offers individual and group support to help you along your journey.