I recently started a dog-sitting job that made me come face-to-face with a very sad fact: I don’t spend enough time in nature. I took her for a walk this morning and was struck with how beautiful the park was at that time of day.
On the other hand, I was also so rushed to get to class, that I felt I couldn’t linger as long as we wanted. I wanted to release her from her leash and let her run around and explore for hours. I wanted to release myself as well. I wanted to sit under a tree with a book, watch birds peck around in the grass, climb a tree, find an animal’s home; and watch the miracle of their natural habitat in action.
But it seems that time and time again, I am pulled back from these impulses by my everyday responsibilities. So every once in a while I need to be reminded about how much I need nature in my life, and how much good it does for my well-being.
Nature is a medicine that works for all mental and emotional ailments. Though we need to do the legwork to become our healthiest and highest self, nature is up there on the list of remedies.
Whether it be a lonely heart, a tired mind, depression, ADHD, stress, or anxiety (etc.), nature finds a way to help. We are all deeply rooted in nature, whether we feel it or not; and getting back to our source gives our spirit a good cleanse.
It’s not just the open green spaces that heals; it is specifically the vibrational properties of trees and plants. The trees provide us with not only oxygen, shade, and wood; but they also give off healing energy to the beings that interact with them.
In Blinded by Science, author Matthew Silverstone said he has proven that the vibrational energy of trees and plants gives us health benefits. Trees give off a grounding energy, with their roots embedded in the ground, and a safe and secure feeling to those who depend on them. They emulate a strong figure, that is firmly in the earth, but always reaching upward; using their strength to grow higher and extend goodness toward others.
Scientists are now starting to realize that the tree-hugging hippies may have seen something that they haven’t. We know that everything around us has a specific vibration. A tree, when touched (or hugged), has a unique vibration that affects our well-being in many wondrous ways.
By coming in contact with the trees we pick up these vibrations and are grounded by the trees natural life-giving energy. It also gives us a chance to slow down and get in touch with the natural part of us, and the world around us.
How can we reconnect to nature, and practice tree hugging?
Just like with human relationships, there are many ways that we can have a relationship with nature. Nature can be like the cousins we drive out to see every once in a while, the parents we see once a week, or a close friend we talk to every day. You can also have a relationship with nature as an intimate lover.
To strengthen this relationship, choose a tree near your house, or in the park, and work on your relationship just with that tree alone. When you feel that you’ve created a bond, visit other trees, plants, or walk in the forest; and get to know them too. Here are some way to get to know your tree:
- Hug the tree. Imagine it receiving all your worries and recycling it through the earth. Imagine receiving all the strength and stability that the tree embodies.
- Trees have a way of standing as wise old pioneers; so imagine that this is so, and talk to the tree as if it is a mentor to you. You can also use your tree as a role model; when you are feeling insecure or unconfident in a situation, practice standing firm and confident like your tree.
- Thank a tree (mentally or verbally) for nourishing the earth, and helping you ground yourself.
- Send positive energy to the tree. This will also be beneficial to you, as giving out good energy affects the giver as well as the receiver.
- Plant a tree to continue the positive cycle. This is also a way that humans can give back to nature all the nourishment it provides us.
You can also:
- Bring plants into your home and workplace.
- Plant a garden in your backyard, or even in a pot. This is a very intimate way to have a relationship with nature.
Now, we understand that nature can have many benefits; but how do we make time for some good ol’ tree hugging in our hectic days?
1) Make designated activities “outdoor activities.”
If you have other rituals that you do daily, take them outside. This way you become used to going outdoors with a habit that you’ve already got down pat. So if you write in your journal every day, or call your mother, or read the newspaper, or study; find a nice park to walk through, a big tree to rest under, or a nearby beach. Soon, nature will be a part of your daily routine along with your old habits.
Nature Fact: Researchers at Tokyo’s Nippon Medical School found that women who spent six hours in the woods over the course of two days had an increase in virus-and-tumor-fighting white blood cells, and the boost lasted at least seven days afterwards.
The same goes for exercise. If you have a daily workout at the gym or in your home, move it outdoors and see how it can drastically improve your mood and stress levels. Biking is a great workout for your legs, and makes getting from place-to-place, or just going around town, a more enjoyable and healthier experience.
Nature Fact: A 2011 study published in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise found that people who walked on an outdoor track moved at a faster pace, perceived less exertion, and experienced more positive emotions than those who walked on an indoor treadmill.
In another recent study done in Scotland, subjects who walked through a rural area viewed their to-do list as more manageable than those who walked on city streets.
3) Take a friend
This may sound weird, but using someone else may motivate you to get some quality nature time. Like walking a dog, you are getting where you need to go through someone else’s needs.
So, walk your neighbour’s dog (if you don’t already have your own furry friend), take your kids out for a much needed run around, meet a friend in the park, etc. Anything to get you and your loved ones outside.
Nature Fact: Studies show that when children can see trees or shrubs from their classroom windows, they have better concentration, enhances cognitive abilities, improves academic performance, and have an easier time thinking creatively and problem solving.
Imagine the impact when these children actually spend time in nature. Just a 15-20 minute walk through nature can help both children and adults concentrate better, whether they are counteracting ADHD or not.
4) Join an outdoor activity
Join the yoga class in the park, the book club in the garden, the survival 101 in the forest, the surfing lesson at the beach, even gardening in your own backyard, etc. Once again, this is to motivate you and get you in the habit of making nature a regular part of your everyday life.
Nature Fact: Norwegian researchers discovered that subjects with moderate-severe depression who participated in a horticultural program, experienced reduced symptoms after 12 weeks.
“Humans are innately engaged in nature,” says study author Marianne Thorsen Gonzalez, PhD, making gardening an ideal distraction from the rumination that fuels depression.
5) Little things
If all else fails, and you really cannot find time in your schedule to get out, there are some small helpful things you can do to bring the nature to you. Hang up scenic pictures in your work space, place plants throughout your house, eat a healthy green salad, or even wear jewelry or clothing made from natural materials.
You can also make quick stops during your day, such as picking a beautiful flower on your way to or from work; or stopping to to look at a striking tree or cloud in the sky. These little moments will help rejuvenate you throughout your day, and bring a little more greenery into your life.
Nature Fact: Not only does nature help us, but even pictures of nature can be extremely beneficial. According to a study in the Korean Journal of Radiology, people who were shown pictures of scenic, natural landscapes had heightened activity in areas of the brain associated with recall of happy memories compared to people shown urban landscapes. So hang some landscapes up by your desk and watch as your day gets a little brighter.
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