As I’m sitting at my desk typing this, my cell phone is beside me, my iPad is on the other side of my desk and I can hear the television on in the other room. It’s no secret we have busy lives, but technology has added another layer of distraction.
Be honest, do you feel a sense of urgency when your phone chimes or rings? Whether it’s curiosity or a sense of loyalty to the person on the other side, we’re constantly jumping up to respond to our tech, regardless of what we’re in the middle of doing. It’s no wonder stress is an epidemic.
It’s increasingly common for people to have symptoms that trace back to high levels of stress. When we talk about stress, what it really means is that your nervous system is in fight or flight mode and you’re on alert. Symptoms of chronically high stress include frequent chest pain. anxiety, headaches and in some cases difficulty sleeping. These (and more) can be resolved by spending more time in nature.
More than ever, we’ve come to acknowledge that getting outside is beneficial for our health and well-being. It’s tempting to think we need to take a vacation, go camping or head to the mountains for a day-long hike to experience the benefits of the outdoors, but that’s not the case. There are so many simple ways you can connect to nature every day. Here are a few:
Spend time in your backyard
When was the last time you sat outside, with no electronics and no interruptions? Getting outside in the fresh air, seeing trees and grass and forcing yourself to slow down away from technology helps your nervous system come back into balance. By doing this, you’ll find your stress level significantly reduced.
Simple activities like being in your backyard, walking in your neighborhood, or taking a bike ride can give you the same benefits as a mini-vacation.If you live in a city, make your way to a public park. All it takes to enjoy nature is to step outside your house so you can feel the warmth of the sun, breathe fresh air, and take in the sights around you.
Let Nature In
Unfortunately, for some, being outside can actually be dangerous. Even if you live in an unsafe neighborhood, or are avoiding the sun due to high risk for melanoma, there are ways you can bring nature indoors to you.
Open your windows to let in fresh air in, or grow plants or flowers inside to help you connect to the earth in a simple and nurturing way. You can also make a point to really enjoy the time you do spend outside, whether that’s stepping out to check your mailbox or walking to your car. Take in these moments (however brief) when you’re connecting to the natural world.
If you look for it, nature is always accessible in one form or another, you just have to keep your eyes open for it and find our own way.
Be Open to the Spiritual Side of Nature
We forget that humans spent the majority of our 200,000-year history in close proximity to nature. When you think of it that way, it’s hard to deny the strong connection we have with the Earth.
Allowing yourself to spend time in nature enables this part of you to reconnect with it’s natural surroundings. This connection brings with it a sense of awe and humility, and causes us to pause, slow down and feel calm. Taking a pause to connect with nature creates a parasympathetic nervous system response (our rest and digest system) which decreases adrenaline and cortisol production, similar to what happens during meditation. As a result, we can feel emotionally and spiritually connected to the earth and other beings.
Release Your Expectations
You might feel pressured to spend time outdoors because it’s “good for you.” Adding pressure to the experience isn’t the point. Try to let go of the health benefits and use your time outside as an opportunity to be in the present moment.
So when you do go outside, see if it’s possible to not expect anything in return. Instead, feel the freedom of slowing down and appreciating what’s around you. Part of being in the moment is taking things as they are. We know that nature isn’t something we can control, so it’s easier for us to let go of expectations of what it might look like or how it behaves. This has great benefits for our psyche because we turn down the judging part of our brains and connect instead with perceiving things the way they are.
It’s time to go outside, slow down, take in what’s around you, engage all of your senses, embrace nature and allow it to work it’s magic on you.