The moment I stepped into the woods the tint of green light, and the swishy sound the leaves made, overtook my senses. A sense of calm surrounded me - there were no cars whizzing by, no people chattering away, no litter tumbling across the ground, no concrete rough and hard under my feet - instead there was the beautiful bird song, the strong smell of the wild garlic growing in patches on the edge of the path, jewel coloured flowers waving their dopey heads about with joy, and the soft dirt track cushioning my steps. This was life, this was the serene undertow of the day-to-day "stuff" that causes us stress and worry and anxiety, this was truth.
I remember when I was younger, and still living in Australia, my family and I would trek 8 hours up north, almost (but not quite) to the NSW/Queensland border, to my Aunty June's farm. We would spend up to 2 weeks out in the middle of nowhere, the closest town being over an hour away, and the closest neighbours house about a 10 minute drive ..... not that you ever really saw the neighbours. You could walk for miles and not see anyone, but you would see kangaroos, rabbits, kookaburras, snakes, cows, and bees (amongst other interesting and possibly poisonous creatures). You would see the wide blue sky and the crinkled dry grass, the olive green leaves of the eucalypts and the citrine pompoms of Wattle - and the beauty of it (and the incessant wildness) would make your heart beat furiously. And by the end of the visit, all of that fresh air and fresh food and the best of living, your skin would be glowing, your eyes bright and clear, and your stresses and anxieties melted away into the tranquility (or perhaps I mean expanse) of nature.
We do live in a world that is highly technological, we are able to access information 24/7, there is very little time to feel that we can switch off, and FOMO (the Fear Of Missing Out) is rampant, especially in younger people. It has been proven that this type of living (including living in cities and highly urbanised areas) is a cause of high rates of depression and anxiety, as the stresses to keep on going, to do more and more and more, and be more and more and more, start to take their toll. But exactly what kind of long term impact can this be having on us? Especially young people?
When you think about the impact that highly technological living .... and its certain human/technology love-child FOMO, has on us, you have to consider the concept of "Loneliness in Crowds." In living in a city, we are become so overwhelmed by the frenetic pace and the options available to us, as well as the wide variety of people we meet every day, that the ability to build long lasting, firm, and sure relationships dwindle. The thing is, we have the power, within ourselves, to change this, and it is easier then you think.
By simple engagement with the world around us (and in particular nature) we can alter our brain chemistry, So I have three challenges for you over the coming weeks - to see if you can alter some of that brain chemistry, and shift your moods and motivations, and develop some focus, as well as lightness in life.
1. Get outside at least once a day! Whether it is a lovely, sunny, warm day, and you can go for a walk, or it's a cold, windy, rainy, day, and the best you can do is step into your backyard and splash in a puddle for 5 minutes, just do it! Feel the breeze on your face and the sun on your skin (or the rain on your skin, if it is raining!). Breathe in the fresh air, and listen to the birds or the swishing leaves, notice the colour of the sky and the ground, feel the ground beneath your feet (either with or preferably without shoes). Just make the effort to get out of the four walls of your house/workplace/school.
2. Whilst outside - or anytime you get a chance - touch the plants and trees that surround you .... I know it can seem a bit woo-woo and hippyish, but hug a tree (I hug trees .... and am not ashamed to admit that LOL), caress a leaf, tickle your nose with a flower. Embers yourself in nature whenever you get the chance, it connects you to all that is living and will increase the wellbeing you get from being outside.
3. Record your nature adventures for yourself (and others!)! Whenever I am out for a walk in nature I take photos ..... not a lot of photos, but I do take some. It reminds me of the walk, it takes me back to that moment when I look at the photos, and when I share the beauty that I have seen it encourages others to get out and walk and bond with nature (just like the photo's above - all ones I have taken on my walks). Just be really careful to not overdo the photo taking though - the point of you being out in nature is that you are present and in the moment - only take a photo of something that really inspires you, and be imaginative with it! (If you do take some photos in nature share them on instagram or twitter to show me and the world what part of nature is inspiring you right now - use the hashtag - #Lizzieandilovesnature)
I walk multiple times a week, and to be out in nature has really helped me deal with, not only my anxieties, but also my grief, and my stresses. Nature really is the best medicine.