Tuning Into the Natural World to Get Present
It’s the beginning of a new year, though perhaps with little reprieve, as much of the uncertainty of last year has carried over like a long lingering haze.
For many, the current global events have taken a toll on mental health, as we continue to follow provincial health authorities’ directives to reduce both travel and social interactions. As it turns out, an antidote to the stress and mental unrest is to spend at least two hours per week in nature. Research has shown that time spent connecting to nature can have a powerful impact on improving our mental health.
While restrictions are causing us to stay close to home, you don’t need to go far to get into nature. For the adventurers that yearn to explore this season, there are still ways to get outside and explore safely within your own community. Perhaps you’ll even develop a deeper appreciation for the environment that exists right outside your door.
The next time you’re feeling overwhelmed, take a walk in your local community. To double the impact and truly tune into the natural world, try this simple exercise using your five senses to come to presence and connect with the magnificence of nature. All it takes is an open mind and a willingness to slow down and come to presence.
Begin with identifying five things you can see in your surroundings. Maybe you notice the deep blue shade of sky on a bluebird day and the soft pillows of fresh white snow atop drooping cedar branches. Or if you’re closer to the coast, perhaps you instead take in the plump raindrops that cling to the needles of a Douglas-fir.
Next, pinpoint four things you can hear. You might focus on the natural soundscapes that surround you, like the biophonic sound of birdsong overhead. Or the familiar groans and creaks of ancient trees as the wind passes through their outstretched branches.
Move on to locating three things you can touch. Take the time to trace your fingertips over the soft and fuzzy moss that blankets the trunk of an old tree, a stark contrast to the sensation of the wonderfully rough and rugged bark beneath your palm.
Then, discern two things you can smell, such as the earthy scent produced by rain falling on dry soil or the wintery scent of pine oils as you rub the bristly needles between your fingertips.
Finally, identify one thing you can taste. Maybe it’s the acidic aftertaste of your morning coffee or if you’re lucky, the tangy taste of a rose hip plucked straight from the bush.
This 5-4-3-2-1 grounding exercise is a powerful tool to calm an anxious mind. Plus, the practice of tuning in and acknowledging the natural setting around you may lead you to rediscovering the beauty in your own backyard.