Research continues to show that connecting with nature has many benefits for our wellbeing, including the reduction of levels of stress, anxiety and depression. With the recent easing of lockdown, we are now able to venture further from home for exercise and restoration. However, this may still bring anxiety for some of us and so I was interested to read an article by a Hampshire-based journalist Noticing Nature. During lockdown, instead of becoming bored by her local environment, she came to know her local green spaces ‘… more deeply and gratefully …’. She writes how the mindful noticing of nature can bring comfort and reward. For those of us still unable to leave our homes, studies have shown that connecting with nature just by looking at a picture of the natural world, really focussing on our house plants, or noticing the nature outside our window, also has benefits for our wellbeing.
Brene Brown is a researcher whose TED Talk on vulnerability has been viewed over 46 million times. We may have come to believe through our cultural, societal and familial influences that hiding, suppressing or avoiding our feelings is a display of strength. However, Brown's research demonstrates that rather than being a sign of weakness, allowing ourselves to be vulnerable takes true strength and courage. As Brown explains, we cannot selectively numb our emotions. When we numb the painful emotions, we also numb the positive ones. Sharing our vulnerability, exploring our emotions and understanding our experiences can ultimately ease our distress and increase our connection.
Following a recommendation, I recently purchased 'The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse' by Charlie Mackesy. Through a series of heartfelt conversations and beautiful illustrations, the book explores universal feelings and experiences, such as courage, love and friendship. The author sees the characters as representing aspects of the same person, with the horse being the wisest, deepest part:
"What is the bravest thing you've ever said?" asked the boy. "Help" said the horse.
"Asking for help isn't giving up" said the horse. "It's refusing to give up."
Many of us are aware of the effects of the winter months on our mood and may have heard of seasonal affective disorder (SAD). As we continue into August, it may be of interest to consider how we can also be negatively impacted during the summer months: Why sunshine can make you SAD.
"As long as you are breathing, there is more right with you than there is wrong, no matter how ill or how hopeless you may feel. But if you hope to mobilise your inner capacities for growth and for healing and to take charge in your life on a new level, a certain kind of effort and energy on your part will be required ... It will take conscious effort on your part to move in a direction of healing and inner peace. This means learning to work with the very stress and pain that is causing you to suffer."
We may be aware of the mental and physical health benefits of spending time in nature. However, I was interested to read that recent research has quantified the amount of time needed for positive impacts: Nature significantly boosts health. Also, I particularly liked reading about ‘forest bathing’ which promotes mindful experiencing of the sights, sounds and smells of the forest to improve health and wellbeing: Getting back to nature: how forest bathing can make us feel better.