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  • Writer's pictureLinda Peterson

Nurtured by Mother Nature

A sense of calm can be found in the natural world that is hard to find anywhere else. Just being present in a garden can bring us peace and pleasure, but adding mindfulness practice while in the natural world can have a dramatic impact on our well-being. Mindfulness is defined as the basic human ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we're doing, in and outside of our bodies. Mindfulness can be practiced anywhere at any time, but intentional time spent in nature gives us a chance for reflection, reconnection, and spiritual renewal.

Living mindfully—in the present moment—can be a challenge as our lives become ever busier, louder, and more hectic, leading to escalating stress and anxiety levels. One study found the average American spends 93% of their time in enclosed buildings and vehicles and are suffering what is now being called a nature-deficit disorder. We have the choice to shape our environment to create greater peace and well-being.

Research is solid regarding the health and wellness benefits of time in nature. Many mental health professionals are now prescribing time in nature, ecotherapy or nature therapy, to improve mood, lower stress, and reduce anxiety and depression. As few as 15 minutes can provide benefits, although current research suggests 120 minutes per week is the optimal exposure for the greatest benefits.

We need not travel to one of our country’s magnificent national parks to reap the health benefits of time in nature. Local green and blue spaces (a lake, river, or ocean), a park, a backyard, or even having living plants in your home or office can provide benefits for your mind, body, and spirit. We are fortunate to live in an area with an abundance of natural settings available for us to explore.

Time spent in nature is a multi-sensory experience that can be enhanced by purposely tapping in to our five senses while there. Research on the practice of forest bathing, a Japanese practice established in the 1980s, has demonstrated that merely walking mindfully through the forest and engaging all our senses has proven to be a very effective tool to overcome the ill effects of a hectic life and stressful work environment.

If you are new to the concept of accessing nature’s healing properties and mindfulness practices, here is a way to begin. Using the 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 grounding method for anxiety and stress, relax in your natural setting. Take three deep breaths to center yourself. Now ask yourself,

What are 5 things I can see?

What are 4 things I can hear?

What are 3 things I can smell?

What are 2 things I can touch?

What is 1 thing I can taste?

This practice can be used anywhere and will calm you and bring you into a closer connection with yourself and nature. Natural spaces, green and blue, are not just nice to have for humanity. They are “must haves” for our physical, spiritual, and emotional health and well-being. Take advantage of these places and spaces whenever and wherever you can. Find a way to bring a piece of nature into your life every day.

~Dr. Linda Peterson, Life Purpose and Wellness Coach, Relationship Coach

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Our providers enjoy sharing articles on a wide variety of health and wellness topics.  The information in these articles is intended for general information only, and should not be used to diagnose, treat or cure any condition.  Seek the advice of your medical provider or other qualified healthcare professional for personalized care regarding your unique needs and goals.

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