I have had a full morning; seeing clients, swinging by a supermarket to pick up essentials before I head home. I have a list as long as my arm of admin tasks that I need to do, as well as reading for my next assignment; however when I get in the house I do none of these things. I grab the dogs lead, put on my boots and head down to the beach.
The tide is coming in so I know I am not going to be able to walk along the beach, but that doesn’t matter. What matters is that I can hear the thunder of the waves as they lash pebbles around. I look up and notice that the Kittiwake’s are starting to arrive -give it a few months and the whole cliff face will be heavy with their nests.
I am out in nature, I am awash with feelings of humility and awe. I stand and inhale, hearing, smelling, tasting and feeling the sea air. In that one moment I am connected with everything around me.
I use nature as part of my self-care, something which is crucial to everyone (especially therapists). In my personal experience I find that being able to connect with nature helps make me feel like I am a more than just myself; I am a part of this wonderful world.
As I sit watching the waves smash over a rock I begin to notice my sense of self is returning, I throw the ball for the dog and I know I have had my ‘fix’.
I know the benefits of being outdoors and the positive effect it has on not only my mental health but also that of my clients. I see clients suffering from depression and anxiety and when they incorporate Nature into their lives they report back positive improvements. For some this can simply be sitting in their garden, whilst others have joined walking groups.
Nature can help us heal, Ulrich displayed this in his 1984 study; patients that had access to a natural view were seen to recover quicker and need less interventions from staff than patients without a view.
So how can you practice self care with a focus on nature?
Essentially this comes down to your own personal preferences and what you enjoy Begin by asking yourself some questions;
• Do you want to be alone?
• What type of environment do you want to be in, such as do you want to be in woods or a meadow, would you prefer to be near the sea or some water?
• Do you want to incorporate physical exercise?
• Would you prefer to be participating in an activity such as drawing, writing or gardening?
There are many outdoor activities that you can participate in but knowing what it is that you need from nature is one of the most crucial steps. Once you know that, then you can start being out in nature in a way that is beneficial to you and your own mental health.