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Nature and Mental Health

My Better Life Coaching
Published by Laurence in Tools · 31 August 2020
(Listen to the Podcast HERE)

It is very well known, and getting much media exposure these days, that connecting with Nature brings huge benefits both physically and mentally (in which I include emotionally and spiritually).

From mainstream television such as 'Gardener's World and numerous 'wellness' documentaries, to NHS GP's starting to prescribe time working in a gardening environment for tackling mental health issues and social isolation, it is great to see this centuries old (if not millennia old) 'therapy' getting the coverage and focus it rightly deserves.

For most of my life, two environments have always drawn me to them as a kind of 'sanctuary' of calm and healing: Forests and Water.

Every time I pass a forest or a copse of trees, I feel an urge to just go and sit or walk amongst them, as a kind of calm 'calls to me'. The very act of being among trees, flowers, meadows or gardens just slows life down and, for many people, draws any stress out of them. It is not by accident that we are encouraged to 'Ground' our energies, and I especially focus on this after I have given a Reiki Healing session.

It is well documented that 'stress' is a huge contributor to almost every malady we suffer from, either as a direct cause or as a factor which brings new or a worsening of symptoms, and in today's hectic society, it is almost impossible to avoid.

The thing with nature is that it has it's own pace and we cannot significantly influence it, despite industries using genetics and chemicals to 'speed up' growing time or enhance growth size. For most of us, our experience with nature is most commonly our gardens or outdoor spaces, but even the smallest of window boxes can bring massive health benefits, if we allow ourselves to spend a bit of time in them.

A recent study being carried out in both the UK and the US, has suggested that just 15 minutes of sitting amongst nature, be it a garden or park, or woodland, twice a week is sufficient to elevate our mood and reduce stress.

My partner has discovered this for herself, after the decision to grow some Chillies from seed, and being hugely impatient, has seen herself go on a personal journey to 'slow down' whilst tending to and waiting for Mother Nature to move at her own pace. It is important to note that it is not just children who can marvel at the miracle of watching something you have started, grow and produce results, from flowers to fruit to herbs and spices. Gardeners around the world do so every day. The chemicals released in our brain at pleasurable experiences gives us a great sense of achievement when plants, trees or foods grow right before our eyes, and these same chemicals reduce the stress we carry around.

It has long been a 'tool' in my holistic approach to coaching all of my clients, especially those with mental health issues, from depression to PTSD, to include time within a natural environment. I even try to arrange sessions in a park or woodland setting or cafe if possible, as I have always found it makes both them and me, more comfortable when talking about deep rooted issues. A feeling almost of being wrapped in nature's arms and closer to our emotional and spiritual sides, and so more able to bring out our emotions in an environment which simply feels 'safer'.

It really doesn't matter whether it is a patio of containers with plants, a single window-box of flowers or herbs, or a large estate garden, I urge you all to engage with nature in even the smallest of ways, and you will feel the benefits. You will be surprised at how less stressed and more at peace you feel without having to think about it, even if it is just for the time you spend there, and that feeling can become cumulative, improving the way we handle stress and emotions throughout the rest of our day. Go on, give it a go. I guarantee you will benefit from it.

I mentioned my other calming environment is water, and this comes from my experiences as a Scuba Diver, when I find an almost meditative relaxation when 'flying' slowly and gently with marine life across colourful coral and some marvels of the ocean landscapes. That takes a lot more planning and training, so not as accessible to everyone, but has many of the same benefits, and if you get the chance I recommend it wholeheartedly.

Well, that's it for now. Next month I will be taking a look at a powerful technique which has brought me personally, and many of my friends and clients, much of what they want in life: Vision Boards.

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