Throughout my career, I have worked with many high-profile executives and attorneys, all of whom have the same thing in common. They spend almost all of their daylight hours working in an office setting – or more recently, from home. While hiking and camping may be enjoyable ways to spend the rare weekend getaway, many people do not take the opportunity to embrace nature on a regular basis. One of the most important things I work on with my clients is how to make the most of nature when you only have one hour per day. With my VIP coaching and consulting services, teaching my clients sustainable “how to stress relief” techniques is a top priority, and step one often involves increasing their connection with nature. If you would like to learn more about the services I offer, visit my website to set up a web conference.
How Nature and Wellbeing Go Hand in Hand
Balancing life, love, and work is all about approaching health holistically. This means paying attention to emotional, physical, spiritual and sexual wellbeing, ranging from what we eat, to how we talk to ourselves, the way we move and rest, and how and where we spend our time.
Where I recommend my clients to spend their time is outdoors. Getting out in nature is always top of the list. Whether it is a walk in the park, a dip in the sea, wild lake swimming, or a run in the woods, nature has an incredible power to heal, soothe and restore you after a stressful day.
There is a natural high that comes with getting out in nature. However, it can also help boost creativity, improve the quality of your sleep, provide you a much-needed vitamin D boost, reduce anxiety and stress, and improve your relationships.
The “Sunshine Vitamin”: What Does Vitamin D Do for Me?
Vitamin D is one of many important nutrients that helps regulate your body. Among Vitamin D’s purposes are bone health, antioxidants, anti-inflammation, immune health, and brain cell function. What makes Vitamin D unique is that it is not naturally found in almost any commonly eaten foods – unless you happen to eat a lot of fatty fish, cod liver oil or egg yolks. So where does Vitamin D come from?
You may have heard of Vitamin D as the “sunshine vitamin,” and while direct sunlight does not inject Vitamin D straight into your system, there is some truth to this name! According to the Mayo Clinic, Vitamin D is created when sunlight converts calciferol, a chemical found in the skin. While there are supplements you can find to increase Vitamin D intake, the best way to go about it is simply to get regular sunlight. Access to sunlight certainly varies depending on where you live and what time of year it is, but taking a quick break from the office or making a concerted effort to get outside on weekends is a great way to nurture your body with this very important nutrient.
Five Ways to Approach Stress Relief in Nature
There is no one-size-fits-all “how-to stress relief.” Each person has unique needs and preferences. With that being said, spending time in nature is almost always going to have an effect on you, especially if you are someone who is not traditionally “outdoorsy.” COVID-19 had a huge impact on our ability to go out and about. For some, this caused a total lockdown where you did not leave your house. For others, being remote nature may have felt like the only place you could safely explore.
If you find yourself with limited time to get into nature, know that “quality over quantity” applies here too. Even with just one hour per day, there are still plenty of ways to make the most of nature. Here are five ways to start your journey to find stress relief in nature.
1. Make It a Date
Self-care and self-love are serious commitments because you are taking the time to show up for yourself. Why not extend that same commitment to nature by setting (and keeping) your commitments to Mother Nature? Set a time and place – make it a date – and be there. It can be as simple as undisturbed time in the garden through to a walk in the forest, watching a sunset, or stargazing. One tip to help you connect to a source: it can be as simple as making time to go for a short morning walk in the garden while the kettle is on, before your morning tea or coffee.
2. Put Your Phone Away
This means no distractions, including books. Avoid looking at or even carrying your phone with you. Endless scrolling works against your mindfulness practice and can completely defeat the purpose of spending time in nature. Studies, like this one from BMC Public Health, show that high mobile phone use and overuse are linked to sleep disturbances and symptoms of depression. Challenge yourself to sit with your thoughts outside, the thoughts that come and go. Observe both the patterns in the mind and the nature before you.
3. Take Your Shoes Off
This one may seem odd at first, especially if you are used to wearing dress shoes or heels all day. Whenever you can, walk barefoot in nature. If you plan a little outing to the nearby park, take your shoes off when you get there! Our feet are our physical connection to the earth, and in taking off our shoes, we are permitting that connection to source from our very roots. Enjoy the feeling of the grass, sand, rocks, or bed of the ocean floor. Connect with the warmth and abundance of all that supports you.
Connecting to our feet in this way also allows us to connect to our root chakra, which is based in Hinduism and Buddhism. Chakras are focal points throughout our bodies where energy passes through. Our root chakra is located at the base of the spine and is associated with physical and mental stress when it is not aligned. Standing barefoot outside can allow us to connect to that chakra, acknowledging and trusting that it has, and will provide, everything that we need. This may sound foreign to you now, but over time, the practice of yoga and meditation allows you to become aware and mindful of all parts of your body.
If this sounds a little too ‘woo woo’ for you- there is plenty of evidence that shows the benefits of grounding or earthing (meaning directly connecting the sole of your feet to the ground) for your overall Health and wellbeing: grounding allows you to feel calmer and overcome anxiety. Our modern shoes with all rubber or plastic and insulated soles mean we no longer have access to the natural electrical connection to the Earth, unless walking barefoot. The effect of grounding on blood cells is also documented by Scientific Research.
4. Make It a Full Sensory Experience
What I mean by this is to invite all your senses to observe and sense nature. Try to invite one at a time in full presence. Humans have five basic senses: touch, sight, hearing, smell, and taste. I invite you to awaken them all while in nature in turn and in full focus one at a time.
What do you see? Look around you. Observe the clouds slowly moving and forming in the sky. Invite your curiosity in a child-like manner. Daydream a little while looking at all the different colours and shapes in nature.
What do you smell? Is there anything around you that could bring close to your nose and inhale the scent from? Perhaps a wildflower? Remember not to pick wildflowers, though. You and the wildflower are both part of the same ecosystem. Respecting this is a critical step in how to stress relief. Perhaps you can simply smell the grass. Does it evoke any memories or trigger any thoughts?
What do you feel? If you have a water pond nearby, gently let your hand run in water and concentrate on the feeling. Run your hands in the grains of sand, along tree bark and leaves, or sense the ground underneath your bare feet.
How does it taste? Though I do not advise picking and eating wild plants, consider bringing organic and natural snacks along, such as unprocessed nuts or fruits. Once you arrive outdoors and find your spot, try to really notice the pure taste of unprocessed natural goodness. This helps you connect to your roots and imagine how your ancestors would have lived and eaten, providing much-needed context to your life.
What can you hear? Perhaps you can catch the distant sound of birds chirping, the sound of the crackling branches or leave in the wind, the sound of water droplets, or simply the sound of silence. If you are uncomfortable with prolonged silence, consider why that is the case. Chronic busy-ness in the workplace and in your home life probably breeds this feeling of needing to move on to the next thing. If you live in an otherwise over-stimulated over-digitized area of town perhaps this time outdoors is the closest you can get to “silence” ….enjoy it, with closed eyes.
5. Breathe Deeply When You Are There
Breathing is at the core of mindfulness, so stress relief in nature would not be complete without some deep breathing. Time in nature is the ideal time to develop a conscious breathing technique. On average, humans take about 16 breaths per minute, which adds up to about 23,040 breaths a day. But how many of these do you take consciously?
How often do you consciously breathe during the day? The benefits of adopting a conscious breathing routine within nature are diverse. First, it trains you to go within and be more connected to your own body. It stimulates and enhances your senses, reduces anxiety almost instantly, contributes to better sleep, improves breathing capacity, activates your parasympathetic nervous system, supports your meditation & mindfulness practise, anchors you to the present moment, and grounds you. Conscious breathing is the first step towards conscious living. For additional tips about breathing exercises and how to stress relief, check out this guide from University of Michigan Health.
Contact Me to Discuss Your Wellness Journey
Remember that our fears are usually related to either remounting the past or worrying about the future. Therefore, by anchoring you in the present moment with breathwork in nature, you can feel an almost instantaneous sense of joy and contentment and become radiantly alive!
If you are interested in learning more about stress relief in nature, please contact me. I am always pleased to receive questions and comments. I offer numerous VIP corporate wellness and coaching services, and I have years of experience learning and living this practice myself. Reach out to me online to set up a web conference and learn more.