Nurture Yourself With Nature

Croom Wildlife Management area at sunset

Make spending time in nature a priority in your life, and there you will be nurtured by the beauty that surrounds you. I can promise you won’t regret it. Being in nature can have a profound affect on your wellbeing. A nature walk in the woods, even for just five minutes, will provide positive benefits to your health and peace of mind. Nature can be quite soothing, as it distracts us from our day-to-day troubles.

The forest environment has been enjoyed by humans for a long time because of its quiet atmosphere, beautiful scenery, mild climate, and clean fresh air. In Japan, a forest bathing trip, they call “Shinrinyouu”, is a short, leisurely visit to a forest and is regarded as being a kind of natural aromatherapy” [1]

sunset at lake lowery, florida

How about the sea? The marker at the southern-most point in the continental US at Key West at sunset draws a big crowd each and every day. It is a Key West ritual and it stays with you as a type of religious experience. It is a sublime example of the raw awesomeness of nature, as it goes about its daily business. Experiencing the breeze of salt air is amazing; it’s as if your skin can taste the salt and sea. The ionizing energy is palpable. Who among us has ever spent the day just relaxing at the beach and felt anything but happy and sleepy at the end of it? That beats anything any pharmacologist has ever devised!

oak forest in central florida

Walking in a natural environment can help ease seasonal disorder, depression, anxiety, chronic pain, lowers blood pressure, reduces cortisol, and lifts your mood. As we walk in nature, we inhale phytoncides which are airborne chemicals that plants and trees release to protect themselves from insects. Phytoncides have antibacterial and antifungal qualities which help plants fight disease. When we breathe in these substances, our bodies respond by increasing the number and activity of a type of white blood cell called NK or natural killer cells. These cells kill tumor and virus infected cells in our bodies [2].

palm tree leaf showing a repeated pattern

While walking in a natural setting take the time to look for patterns in the natural items around you.  A fractal is a non-regular geometric shape that has the same degree of non-regularity at every scale. Fractals can be thought of as never-ending patterns. They can be found throughout a nature walk in things such as leaves, clouds, shells, tree silhouettes, or flowers, and looking for them can be a fun and challenging activity, especially for kids, (of any age!).

bird silhouette

An added bonus to a forest nature walk is birding, or bird-watching. Observing beautiful birds in their natural habitat helps the body release dopamine which relaxes us mentally. Day break is one of my favorite times of the day. It is when the birds begin to sing and start their dawn chorus, and is a beautiful thing to experience.

sunrise on lake lowery, florida

Watching the sunrise over our lake for the first time was a spiritual experience for me, and it brought me an internal awakening of awe and an overall sense of peace. Seeing our brilliant, burning orb rise above the water never fails to bring me an intense sense of wellbeing. This same feeling is instilled when I’m standing in a forest of pines as the wind pulls and pushes their branches into provocative whispers and crashes. The ebb and flow of the limbs gently touching and then crashing into each other is a wonderful experience.

live oak tree

For some reason I’ve always been drawn to storm forces and I drew comfort and reassurance sitting on my porch next to my 400-year-old live oak tree during storms. Its majestic, hulking limbs twisting and creaking, creating a cacophony of sounds like nothing any other creature can make. The live oak has its own language as the matriarch of the forest. I felt that nothing the storm gods could dish out could hurt that old tree, and for all the years I sought comfort near it, nothing ever did.

Next time you’re feeling a little blue or puny or worse, treat yourself to a little time in the woods or at the beach. I guarantee you will feel a little bit better.

This article was inspired by a 2020 episode of the wonderful show called Autumn Watch, on BBC, during a segment with Emma Mitchell. Thank you Emma!

[1] Effect of forest bathing trips on human immune function 

[2] Immerse Yourself in a Forest for Better Health

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