Pandemic restrictions have meant that a lot of our usual outlets have not been available to us. Nature, walking, and the outdoors have become important outlets for many of us during this time. Connecting to nature and the outdoors provides essential sensory stimulation, fresh air, and a break from the familiar indoor environment, which helps us maintain an important balance for our mental and emotional health.
Those who are cocooning, covid anxious, or mainly staying indoors may be feeling frustrated that these benefits of nature are lost. It’s important to recognise that we can also connect with some of the benefits of nature indoors. Bringing the outdoors indoors, stimulating our senses, and connecting with nature even in simple ways can have some really positive beneficial impacts.
Whether we are spending times indoors, outdoors, or a little of both, the grounding and relaxation benefits of nature can be replicated by taking some simple steps to redirect our attention to nature.
Redirecting how we connect with nature during these times can help us feel grounded, stimulate our natural connections with the world, and support our calm. Whether you are indoors or outdoors, here are some tips that may help you to switch off, relax, and connect with the benefits of nature:
1. Connect with your senses
The phrase ‘coming back to our senses’ is often used to describe the experience of returning to reality, or waking up to what’s around us. It quite literally means coming back to our senses of sight, sound, smell, and touch, helping to reduce feelings of anxiety and worry by redirecting attention away from unhelpful negative thoughts.
Go for a mindful walk, meaning take a walk and observe the colours of nature around you – the vibrant orange and red hews of the leaves, the crisp smell of the air, and the coolness of the winter breeze.
2. Grow your own
Gardening and growing your own plants and flowers can have many benefits, encouraging relaxation, mindful concentration, and reduced stress levels. Given Nature’s link to relaxation, the more plants and flowers we can have around us the better. Now is also a great time to connect with positive aspects of our future.
Looking after plants from infancy to full foliage encourages feelings of achievement and satisfaction, as we observe the fruits of our labour coming to life. Now is an opportunity to look after the garden, patio, balcony, or window boxes, and start for the coming spring putting a plan in place for future growth. As we move into winter over the coming weeks is a great time to pause, reflect, and plan for spring.
3. Connecting with nature
Whether we are indoors or outdoors, Mindful practices invite us to connect with our environment; listening to the sounds of the birds, observing the green trees or blue ocean, and breathing in the smell of seasonal plants and fresh air. These physical exercises and mindfulness practices can ground us back into the moment, and in doing so can give us a much needed break from worries and anxieties.
A final thought…
Nature can have a natural calming effect on the body and mind, and supports our positive mental health. Taking in our natural surroundings can aid our stress management by being mindful. This feeling of connection helps to lower feelings of stress and anxiety, and helps to cultivate feelings of meaningfulness, creativity, and confidence. It is natural to feel constrained when our usual routine and traditional outlets are not available, but that doesn’t mean they need to overwhelm us. By employing simple techniques we can work towards maintaining balance in our mental and emotional health during this time.
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