5 ways nature helps us
I have the same chesty cough that I always have when I am here. My head feels full, and I can't quite get the damp chill out of my bones. Looking at my watch, I calculate if there is enough time to boil hot water for medicine. I know I could stay behind and sleep this off, but there is a small and familiar tugging feeling that my mind can't ignore. I pull on my boots and make way for the train station.
A short train ride followed by winding black ribbons of roads, I shrug on my waterproof jacket and the morning struggle starts to fade. Within minutes I can breathe through my nose again. Previously racing from the rushed and sick-clouded morning, I can feel my heart rate calming.
There is talking, some laughter, boots crunching, but there is mostly silence in my head. I've hiked this trail before, and my brain tries to recount the turns ahead, the types of trees, and where exactly we will cross over the churning stream. We are half-shaded by the over-hanging canopy of trees, and at times the muck is so deep and thick that my boots aren't convinced that they want to return home with me.
And that smell. That gentle fragrant reminder that everything will strangely always be connected.
There is well-researched science readily available that supports the idea that stepping out in nature does wonders for our brains. The entire field of ecotherapy is centered around it. But chemical reactions and alterations aside, it serves to grow something more abstract as well - our emotional well-being. Time in nature isn't leisure, but rather an investment in yourself.
I first started to venture into nature in order to think, to process, and to find healing. The wilderness is kind that way, it shares with you plenty of its headspace. There are parts of you that have long gone undiscovered. And sometimes that is uncomfortable. Maybe a bit unbearable. When we are caught up in our daily routine, it is quite effortless to brush off what may be gnawing at our conscience. It is always easier to look forward than it is to look inward. But that steady pound-pound of your boots will shake some thoughts loose. Bring forth clarity. Allowing you to reflect on the very essence of what living is about.
Daily life is a time and place that never slows down. Nature is the last remaining place to exhibit patience. There is a sort of beauty that comes with slowing your thoughts and allowing them to take you where you need to be. You can learn how to place yourself at the intersection of intent and purpose. To help restore and regain your balance.
Nature offers a keen perspective – there's much to learn in those muddy miles. Your best ideas are sparked outside of four walls. We ponder what we want to create and how these ideas can fill us back up again, to make us full.
LEVEL THE PLAYING FIELD
We are conditioned to train for triathlons or challenging races, but being active in nature is a goal that is worthwhile in itself. Nature does not care if you are young or old, male or female, or what your heritage is. The outdoors is for all. It’s a level playing field.
We can step away from negative thoughts, from competition with others, from prejudices; and we return with a stronger sense of resolve.
We plucked a branch from a nearby pine tree, and I rub the green needles in my hand. I inhale and let the fragrance bring me back to delicate memories long past. To our home. To past Christmases.
Maybe you don't have those similar memories yet, but if you choose to take a leap into nature, you soon will. The wilderness reminds us what it means to be human, and to what and who we are connected to.
Remember that the best views are free, and entirely yours for the taking.
Malinda Meadows is an Ohio native who was letting grief blanket her life.
She found healing through traveling and nature. She discovered changes of location led to changes in her mindset. It helped her process grief and forge a new path with greater optimism and happiness. Realizing the benefit of deliberate change, she now leads a more balanced and mindful life inspired by simple changes.
She blogs regularly at malindainthesnow.com to help others find change, however small, outside their box in order to live a happier, healthier life.