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Nature Connection (when you don’t want to leave the house)

Nature Connection Hayley Gillard Ecotherapist

There are loads of amazing benefits to being out in nature, you’ll know if you’ve been reading my blog or following me on social media for any length of time, that breathing fresh air is good and taking a break is good… but what about in the winter when it’s cold, dark and grey? It’s this time of year we need connection with the outdoors more than ever.

I’m going to look at why nature is so good for us (especially in winter) and how you can bring the outdoors inside so you still get some of the benefits when your pyjamas and a log fire are more appealing.

Being out in nature is good for our bodies and our minds. We all know that breathing in lungful’s of fresh air is great for our respiratory system and that soaking in some sun rays helps Vitamin D to soak in to our bones. We also know that being outside means we might be exercising, walking the dog, going for a run, strolling to work, and that exercise is good for us and so doing it outside is even better. And we might be outside because we are taking a break, sitting in the garden, enjoying lunch on a bench, or gardening and so spending some time out, relaxing, looking after ourselves and reconnecting or course will have huge benefits.

As humans, if you imagine we’ve only really lived the lives we are living today (lives that are full of high rise buildings, working in dark offices, being surrounded by concrete, tarmac and electricity, and an ever expanding world of technology and social media) for the last couple of hundred years.  The Industrial Revolution was really not that long ago in the history of man-kind.

Pre-Industrial Revolution we (humans) were working on the land, we were farmers growing crops, farming animals, and spending our time in forests and fields. Look at it that way and it’s probably not that shocking the health problems society has today, such as the rise of mental health issues, and obesity levels rising. Look at how disconnected we are from nature as a human species.

There has been lots of research done into the physical and mental benefits of being outside.

Research from the University of Michigan, USA looked at the effect of nature on mental fatigue and stress. They found that being in nature helps us to relax, improves our memory, increases our attention spam, and improves cognition. How fantastic is that!?

The University of Tokyo found that Shinrin-Yoku (translated as forest bathing in English) had a huge impact on our mental and physical health too. They believe that because humans evolved to be in nature that actually this is where we flourish best. The Shinrin-Yoku programme is Japan is great! GP’s can refer people into programmes of being outside relaxing! Forest bathing literally means being in nature, sitting, walking and just being in forests. Throughout Japan they have different walks and trails that have equipment within it that can measure blood pressure and monitor heart rates as people are in the forest giving concrete evidence as to how nature is actually physically affecting them. Another University in Japan also found that being in nature reduces stress and symptoms of depression.

So, I’m pretty sure I’ve convinced you that nature is good for you. But that doesn’t stop it being cold and dark and grey outside does it!?

Well, here’s some ways that you can connect with nature INSIDE. Yes, really! These are tips I share with my corporate clients who work in high rise offices with florescent lighting.

  1. Buy plants – having plants around help you breathe easier as they produce oxygen that we need to keep ourselves active and alert. They’re also great for softening a man-made space and allowing your brain to relax by bringing in some of your natural environment.
  2. Use essential oils – essential oils are the purest part of the plant and so really intense bursts of nature. Some are great for relaxing like lavender and chamomile and some are great for energy like orange and peppermint. It doesn’t matter whether you put a few drops on a handkerchief and carry it round with you or if you burn them in an oil burner, you’ll still be connecting with nature.
  3. Look outside – even if the only natural thing you can see if the sky. Use it as a way to practice mindfulness and become aware of your senses. Notice texture, colour, pattern, movement. This will reduce your stress hormones and allow your body and mind to recalibrate.
  4. Light a candle – one of the oldest forms of meditation is candle gazing and fire is a pure natural element. You could also have a campfire, light your wood burner or even use an app like Calm which has a fire crackle soundtrack you can meditate to.
  5. Change your phone background image – research has shown that even photos or art work of nature helps us to relax and feel at ease. Perhaps add a screen saver to your desktop or a background image to your phone or tablet as a reminder or the natural world’s wonder and beauty.
  6. Eat fruit and veg – stock up on root vegetables, fresh food and hearty ingredients which can help keep you hydrated and full of essential fatty acids, vitamins and minerals. The best way to stay healthy is from the inside out.
  7. Use visualisation – imagine you’re in a garden, on the beach or in the mountains whilst you’re meditating. Visualisation is incredibly powerful and imaging yourself in nature is wonderfully relaxing and restorative.

For more tips and advice on how to connect with nature and prioritise your own wellbeing, follow me on Facebook.

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