Destressing in nature: Part 1
If you were to ask me for my top tips for alleviating anxiety, stress and worry, it would have to be getting out in nature. I love nothing more than sitting out with the warmth of the sun on my face or walking in the forest. I didn’t realise how much I automatically relax when I’m outside in open space and fresh air until I spent 9 years living and working in one of the busiest cities in the world, Hong Kong. I started to notice that if I went out walking in one of the country parks, or took a ferry to one of the islands or beaches, I’d just feel my whole body automatically calm and relax – my shoulders would go down, my breathing would get deeper and I’d almost feel the stress oozing from my body. I’d feel myself recharging both mentally and physically. Now I’m back in the UK and chosen to live with a view over farmland and forest because I know how important it is to my inner peace and calmness, and a walk is part of my daily routine no matter what the weather. I know not everyone has access to open space, but I think so many of us, during Covid, have realized how important it is to get out to local parks or forests. Regular time spent in nature, even just for 10 minutes, is my number one tip for our physical, mental and emotional health.
Here are my tips for amplifying the beneficial effects of being out in nature…
Breathe deeply. Start by just noticing your breath as you sit or walk. All too often when we’re stressed we breath so shallowly from the chest. Try to take some deep breaths in and by that I mean breathe from your tummy – put one hand on your tummy and, as you breathe in your tummy expands (your hand lifts up gently) and as you breathe out the tummy contracts inwards (your hand returns down). This deeper breathing immediately calms our nervous system down, bringing much needed oxygen into our lungs and body and is very cleansing as we literally ‘detox’, exhaling out toxins and stress. I like to make a mental picture of all the tension leaving my body going out through my feet into the earth where it is recycled into love and peace. This whole process doesn’t have to take very long. Just 30 seconds to up to a minute can be enough to calm and relax us.
You can also turn a walk into a mindful meditation. Yes, you heard me you don’t need to sit in silence to meditate (which I know puts so many people off). Just begin by taking in your surroundings and being fully present as you walk. When we’re fully present and focussed just on that moment our minds cannot ruminate about the past or wander into worry about the future. There are many free apps out there to guide you. I like meditation & mindfulness app Buddhify.