Feeling Stressed Out? Get Back to Nature

forest

It’s easy to get absorbed in the day to day of your life. You get up, go to work, come home, do your evening routine, and then it’s time for bed. Do this over and over, and soon you’ll feel as if you’re just a cog in the machine. This is amplified when the view from your window is a concrete jungle, your commute is typified by trains packed to the breaking point or traffic jams that go on for hours. There must be an escape from that insanity, a way to be more connected and alive.

No matter where you live, there’s most likely nature nearby. Getting out into nature provides an opportunity to recharge your batteries and ease your nerves. In fact, there are so many benefits to getting out in nature that making it a part of your weekly routine is essential to creating and maintaining good mental health.

Getting yourself out into nature will help you to refocus, relax and realign yourself to who you are and your greater purpose. After all, you are more than just a cog in the machine that gets a day or two of rest before you have to go out and do it all over again.


According to a 2019 study by Matthew White, getting out in nature for as little as a couple of hours each week can have powerful health benefits. Those benefits include: reduced stress and anxiety, better physical and mental health, and increased cognitive power. No special skills required. Just get outside and experience nature around you.


About 10 years before this study came out, I produced a video podcast called Relaxation Media. The purpose of these video programs was to give the viewer a few minutes of calming nature on their smartphone or computer and to simulate the feel of being out in nature. I believed then, as I do now that experiencing nature even virtually, has healing qualities. The podcast ended up becoming the #1 video podcast for wellness worldwide with thousands of downloads of each episode.


Today you can put on a pair of VR goggles and become immersed in a nature experience that’s so realistic your brain will actually believe you are outside. While this is a good way to reset, it’s even better to physically explore nature in your own area. Smell the trees, the grass, and the flowers. Hear the different bird calls and the gently flowing stream, if your park or recreational area has one. Even watching people play with their dogs and children will help to bring about a feeling of serenity.


Here are seven activities you can do to touch nature regularly:
1. Mindful Observation
Sit on a bench or somewhere that you can be still for some time. Then, just watch your surroundings. Listen to the sounds and tune into the smells around you. Experience it all. You don’t need to analyze or think about anything. Just be in the moment, a living part of the habitat. Breath deeply and feel.


At first, this will be extremely difficult. You may be able to mindfully observe your surroundings for only a few moments before reaching for your phone, wanting to take a picture, or otherwise disengage from the situation. Keep practicing and soon you’ll be focusing for 5, 10, 20, even 30-minutes at a time, just you and the nature surrounding you.


As I was sitting on a bench one afternoon, three lizards, a large spider, a centipede, and five different kinds of birds all stopped by to visit. These are things I never would have experienced if I’d had my face in my phone or been walking. Sitting still and letting nature come to you will reveal pleasant surprises.


2. Blind Emersion
For this exercise, close your eyes and let your other senses guide your experience. What do you hear? Is it approaching or receding? Which way is the wind blowing? How does the air smell? Touch the ground and just experience it, don’t label it. Just feel. This heightening of the senses brings me back to simpler days of playing in the park and letting my imagination run free. I hope it does the same for you.


3. Forest Bathing (Shinrin-Yoku)
In this Japanese practice, all you need to do is take a walk in nature and immerse yourself in the environment. Notice the terrain, plants, and wildlife you encounter as you walk. As above, soon you’ll have a sense that you’re connected to the environment surrounding you. That feeling provides both power and serenity.


4. Explore A New Natural Area Near You
If you are well acquainted with one park or natural area near you, look for another one that is close by. Set a date and time to explore this new area. That can make it feel like you’re going on a new adventure. What’s even better, if you have a friend that also likes being out in nature arrange to meet them there. Then you can enjoy the outdoors together. This is a great opportunity to strengthen your bond.


5. Sketch
Regardless of your artistic ability, sketching requires you to really observe your subject to capture its essence on paper. Whether you sketch the landscape, or the grass under your feet. Drawing your experience will help you to connect to nature t and experience a personal relationship with it.


6. Journal about your outdoor experiences
If you don’t like sketching, you can also do a bulleted journal about what you’re observing in your outdoor environment. How do you feel when you’re outside? What animals, insects, plants are you seeing? Are you seeing any people regularly? You may be inspired to write poetry or explore other creative outlets while you’re in nature too. Many of the greatest poets, writers and musical artists throughout history were inspired by nature.


7. Observation Over Time
If you visit the same spot on a regular basis, you’ll begin to recognize subtle changes. Noticing the differences from month to month and season to season is an experience you’ll carry with you. That recognizable ambiance is something that you can recall through meditation whenever you need mental or emotional realignment.


Tying it all together
Touching nature will increase your peace of mind, and it only takes a few minutes a day to engage with your surroundings. Whether you head to nearby open spaces or out to your own backyard, taking some time to connect with nature will help you to understand yourself and your environment in ways that are engaging and empowering.

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Don’t Surrender to Your Fear

Fear has the ability to halt your progress if you let it

As I walked out of my boss’s office one thing she said stuck in my mind above everything else, “We are downsizing, so your job and department are being eliminated.”

What!? After spending my entire career getting to this position. One I really love. I am now being pushed out the door. I really had no idea what I was going to do. Afterall, I had invested most of my professional efforts into this company and building skills that allowed me to move up the corporate ladder. Now the rungs have been cut and I’m seeing myself speed down the ladder, like a terrified teenager plunging to their death in a bad horror movie.

Fortunately, I had the sense to invite my fear to lunch. We considered the past, did an inventory of the present and made a plan for the future. When our lunch was over, fear and I shook hands and went our separate ways. Your meeting with fear may not be so cordial. You may feel him taking a firm grip on you and heisting your hopes and dreams of a comfortable future. This doesn’t have to be the case. You can find a way past fear. A way to develop confidence and not just survive your travesties but to prosper through transcendence of the experience.

I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.

Often we find comfort in the past, even a confining one. We know the past, and it doesn’t hold any surprises. We believe the past offers us stability. This is, however, not true. The past restricts us. It limits our growth and stifles potential. While living with the limits of your situation provides a sense of stability, it will never transform you. Surrendering to your circumstance will keep you bound to a life of subservience. You deserve more than that!

Life consists of ups and downs. It is a series of peaks and valleys that bring you both joy and sorrow. Realizing that your existence is fluid, always changing, will help you to free yourself from the obstacles that are holding you back.

Looking out over the horizon, we see a vast unknown. As a result, it is natural to gaze out into the void with anxiety and fear. Even though you are moving into uncharted territory, you are not doing it alone and unprepared. You have experience, skills and a network of people to help you through these trying times. You need to take inventory of your resources, plot out how to use them efficiently, and take action. This is your opportunity. March into the future bravely, accepting your fears and finding a way to navigate a course beyond them.

One of the greatest discoveries a person makes, one of their great surprises, is to find they can do what they were afraid they couldn’t do.

What are you afraid of?

As you look at the road that lies ahead you, may have hopes and dreams of what your life could be. Maybe those ideals end with, “but someday,’ or ‘if only.” This limiting self-talk blinds you to possibilities. It keeps you static in a rapidly moving world. Why not take a few steps down the road to discover if you can see your future with better clarity?

Fear causes you to become immobilized, unable or unwilling to take the next action. You may be apprehensive about your future. Maybe you feel that failure is inevitable. That there is no sense in trying to get beyond it, so why even try. You can be better than that. How can you know what you are capable of if you don’t even try? Dip your toe in the water. Then take some time to honestly evaluate the experience. This is the way to discover the solutions that work best for you. It’s all trial and error, correct and make another attempt.

Don’t be afraid of failure. Of course, you are going to fail, that is how you learn to succeed. Naturally, it won’t be easy. Nothing worth its weight ever is. Nevertheless, take the moment for all it’s worth and wrestle your success from it. You are the master of your life, in spite of your fear and shortcomings. It is through this process of facing your fears that you will reduce apprehension and build confidence. As you build confidence you will gradually begin to understand that you are where you need to be at this moment, doing what you have to do, in order to become the person you are meant to be. Seize the moment.

I’ve learned that fear limits you and your vision. It serves as blinders to what may be just a few steps down the road for you. The journey is valuable, but believing in your talents, your abilities, and your self-worth can empower you to walk down an even brighter path. Transforming fear into freedom — how great is that?

Accept failure as a by-product of the process. A chance to develop, become more intelligent, stronger and more prepared for the battles ahead. Failure does not equate to surrender — It is an indicator that you need to learn more. In that process you will comprehend how to succeed.

You don’t have the benefit of hindsight. As a result, you do not know the reason for the experience you are having, what you are to take from it and how it can help to guide you to a better existence. You need to complete your due diligence, have faith and jump. No regrets.

Make fear a colleague

Understanding your fears and what feeds them is vital to overcoming them. We tend to fear what we do not understand. Learning about your fear and why you are experiencing it will help you to overcome the anxieties that accompany your strong feelings of apprehension and maybe even terror. This knowledge will better equip you to manage not only the situation, but also future dilemmas.

Examine your fears and anxieties. Learn to identify what triggers and feeds them. Then educate yourself with solutions for overcoming them. In time, instead of looking for avenues of retreat, you’ll be confidently proclaiming: “Been there, done that!” And chalking up victories big and small along the way.

This ability to face your fears head-on will eventually lead you to freedom. Freedom to stand up and be recognized as a person of value. Freedom to live your life on your terms. Freedom to unleash the talents and abilities you have locked inside for too long. This all starts with looking your fears in the eye and considering the message they have for you. Fear is not a bad thing, it comes with a message of the need for you to take action. You need to be the one to manage your fears. Control them, don’t let them control you.

Being aware of your fear is smart. Overcoming it is the mark of a successful person. Seth Godin

It's your life

This life is the only one you have. You can choose to peek through the peephole when opportunity in the form of a problem or conflict knocks at your door and lock the deadbolt. Or you can open that door and greet the experience with a firm and friendly, “Hi, how ya’ doing!?” It’s completely up to you.


Letting an abusive partner control you is not ok. Accepting to work in a situation where you are unappreciated isn’t acceptable. Believing that you are not worthy of achieving your goals or that someone has it better than you, will never allow you to unlock your potential. When trouble knocks you down, get up and force a smile, Then punch it right back. Accept nothing but the best from yourself each and every day. Like weight training, you will grow stronger with practice. The key is to keep working to combat your fears. If you fall off the horse, get up and try again. You won’t get today back, so do what you can to win this day.

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