Yesterday I had to step away for a few hours, from everything.
All the news... Hurricane Laura, West Coast wildfires, the derecho damage in Iowa, COVID19, mask arguments, murders and riots, conspiracy theories, political conventions and endless commentary about political conventions, social media updates on seriously ill friends of friends, peaceful protests, back to school stories shared with anticipation and trepidation.
At the heart of so many things -- fear. Valid and manufactured fear. Our individual perspective and experience determine how we each label fear. But its effect on us all can be quite similar.
Don't we all share feelings of anxiety, frustration, concern, anger, distrust, loneliness?
And what can happen to all those feelings and all that stress if not managed in a healthy way? From what I have learned in recent months and years about somatic healing or somatic experiencing, the physical body stores not only physical traumas but also emotional and psychological stress. (Here's a great introduction to somatic experiencing.) The connections between our brains and our bodies are complex, particularly the limbic part of our brain that generates and holds our emotions. The neuropathways run deep as life experience accumulates. And those pathways can be changed, re-routed if you will, thanks to a glorious thing called neuroplasticity.
For three years I have been learning what this means for me in terms of how I hold and carry stress, what my limits are, what my triggers are, and why my neuropathways create my reactions and responses. Most significantly I have learned how to retrain my brain, how to heal my nervous system, calm my body, and make my way through stressful days and challenging circumstances in a much better way.
This very short version of a much longer story culminated yesterday in my decision to walk away from the noise. My brain and my body knew I needed to MOVE. In recent weeks this has just been happening. What I mean by that is I don't have to compel and cajole myself for hours to take a 30-minute walk! Instead, I crave it and go. I didn't reach for ice cream or apple pie yesterday. I craved parmesan-crusted chicken and roasted vegetables and was so hungry I downed a delicious spinach salad while dinner was in the oven. I haven't slurped a soda (or pop, as my Wisconsin self would say) in more than a month. Instead, I actually crave water.
So what does nature have to do with all this?
Time in nature reduces blood pressure, heart rate, and muscle tension.
Nature reduces anger and increases pleasant feelings.
Drinking water naturally cleanses your system of toxins and impurities.
Walking in a natural setting eases anxiety and improves physical fitness.
Nature helps children's creativity, imagination, and social interaction.
Consuming vegetables, fruits, and healthy fats infuses your cells with energy.
Walking or sitting meditations in nature reduce feelings of depression and relieve the mind of rumination over negative thoughts.
Nature sparks creativity in artistic expression, critical thinking, and innovation.
Nature can boost our immune systems.
And my favorite... Spending time in or near moving water allows the negative ions to refresh and rejuvenate your mind and body.
How can you infuse more nature in your life?
Do this every day, or most days.
Consistency and repetition is key.
And then pay attention to how you feel.
Journal if you're inclined.
Share your experience with a friend.
Leave a message here about your experience.
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