Money. Relationships. Parenting. Work. Sometimes the stress just piles up and it feels like too much. When I get stressed, I confess I don’t always deal with it in the healthiest ways. I’m guilty of seeking comfort food. (AKA: My children’s leftover holiday candy or a spoonful of peanut butter.) Over the years, I have been trying to use healthier ways to cope with stress. I have found nature to be one of the best stress relievers. I’ve come up with a variety of ways to use nature to relieve stress.
WAYS TO USE NATURE TO RELIEVE STRESS
People naturally seek nature to unwind and relax. Just imagine a picturesque view of a blue green ocean as you lounge in a beach chair or the reflection of distant mountains on a calm lake as you sip coffee from your deck chair. Most people imagine these scenes as peaceful and idyllic, and want to vacation there. Most likely you’ve probably already used nature to help relieve your stress at some point. Let me give you some insight on how to use nature to relieve stress more often than an occasional vacation.
SIMPLY GO OUTSIDE
Now you might be under the assumption that you need to be soaking up the sun on a beach far away in order to relieve your stress. But you can take advantage of small opportunities to let nature close to home help you feel calmer.
A few minutes simply sitting outside in your backyard or on a front porch swing can relieve stress. Don’t feel like it has to be some picture perfect landscape to relax or a whole day of relaxing either. Although those are nice, take advantage of the nature you have around you. If you only have 10 minutes, take it. I have even went out and sat in my parked vehicle with my window down during my lunch break. Fresh air and a blue sky can do wonders. (No phone calls during a lunch break helps, too. ;))
If you have small children, taking them outside helps everyone get a change of scenery. If your morning went downhill fast, a trip to the backyard or a local park can reset the day. The kids just might sleep better at naptime, too, thanks to all of that outdoor play. Going outside even works with infants, I remember taking my infant daughter for a walk outside in the middle of the night. The moment I carried her outside, she stopped crying. It worked almost every time for her.
Of course, exercise is good for your mental health, but exercising outside is even better in my opinion. There is nothing like a walk in the woods or a walk on a beach to help ease your mind. If you don’t have a woods or a beach nearby, head to a city park or simply walk around the block. It doesn’t have to be a fast pace. In fact, I often enjoy a leisurely walk where I often stop to enjoy some nature photography (with my phone camera, no less).
The repetitive motion of walking seems to ease my mind. There is a rhythmic pattern that seems to lull the mind.
LOSE YOUR THOUGHTS
When you’re stressed, it is easy to get caught up in thought patterns that keep your feeling stressed. Going outside can help you put those thoughts aside as you focus on other things.
If you’re walking, you can focus on the rhythm of your feet or breathing. Let the thoughts come, and then let them go. This takes practice. This is one of many reasons I like to hike trails in woods. I have to concentrate on my where I place my feet, so I keep my balance or don’t trip. It’s harder for other thoughts to intrude.
SOAK UP NATURE
Whether you’re sitting on your balcony in the city or walking deep in the woods, you can find nature to enjoy. Find beauty in the nature that is around you and be thankful for the simple joy it brings you. Feel the warm sunshine on your face and the breeze caressing your hair. Smell the fragrant flowers and the fresh cut grass from your neighbor’s yard. Hear the enchanting melodies of bird song around you. Let your eyes delight in the lush greenness around you and the expansiveness of the blue sky and clouds above you. Take each simple pleasure and let it soak into your being. You are alive and part of this natural world and it is beautiful. And you are part of its beauty.
Take at least 5 minutes today to go outside and let your worries and stress go. Then do it again tomorrow, and explore the different ways you can use nature to relieve stress.