Many of us will be feeling challenged and stressed right now, but there are easy ways to reduce your stress while reaping the health benefits of getting out into nature.
In our busy lives, we don’t always take the time to appreciate nature and the environment around us – but it could help us to feel calmer and less stressed.
Stress is our body’s response to pressures from challenging situations in life, and many people are finding things challenging at the moment. Stress can be a feeling of being overwhelmed or under pressure. It’s normal to feel like this sometimes, and a certain amount of stress can be healthy. But if you’re feeling like this, easing your stress levels would make you feel better, and getting in touch with nature might help.
1. Hunt out some flowers
Make your walk a bit more interesting with the mission of finding some flowers. They could be at the side of a road, in someone’s front garden, or in a local park. Try really looking at them, touching them, and smelling them. It might feel a bit silly at first but really focusing on something in the moment, and identifying with your senses, can help to focus on the present moment and pause anxious thoughts.
2. Feel the sun on your face
On a sunny day, take a minute to feel the sun’s warmth on your face. You don’t have to go far – your doorstep or garden will do, if it’s in the sun. If you feel comfortable doing it, try closing your eyes for a minute so you can focus on that feeling. You might feel it first on your forehead or nose, see if the warmth spreads to your body too. Check with your doctor first, or use high-factor sunscreen, if you are on a medication that increases sensitivity to sunlight, such as amiodarone (which you might be taking if you have a heart rhythm problem) or some blood pressure medications, like diltiazem and nifedipine.
3. Hear the wind in the trees
Nature sounds can be very calming. If you can get to somewhere where there are trees, then try taking a minute to listen to the wind in the trees. This still works on a grey, blustery day.
4. Try tree or plant spotting
If you’re someone who struggles to stay still/not be doing something productive, you could learn how to identify different plants, trees or wildlife. There are lots of different apps to do this, such as the below, which are all compatible with Android and IOS phones:
There are lots of good books for this too, such as:
- Trees, a Collins Gem guide, by Alastair Fitter and David More
- London’s Street Trees: A Field Guide to the Urban Forest, by Paul Wood
- Trees and Woods in the British Landscape: The Complete History of Britain’s Trees, Woods and Hedgerows, by Oliver Rackham
5. Listen to the birds
A lot of people find it soothing to stop and listen to the birds. Try asking yourself some simple questions when you hear something – is it high or low pitch, is the pitch rising or falling, and how many sections are there in the song? Try to see the pattern and let yourself really listen. You could also learn to identify some common birds from their calls.
6. Find joy in the animals
The more we can find little nuggets of joy then the more that this will become the norm for us, and we’re more likely to feel content and positive overall. What would make you happy? You could take your dog for a walk if you have one, and notice the joy it finds in splashing around in puddles. Or you could take a few minutes to watch the lambs stumble around in a nearby field. Or perhaps there’s ducks and ducklings in a pond nearby, or bats in the evening (even if you live in a town or city, you might spot bats, especially near a green space). Some people find it helpful to write down a description of these little moments, so that if they’re having a tough day they can look back and feel a spark of that joy again.
7. Find nature without getting out
If you can’t get out at all, for example because of your health condition, you can still have some of the benefits. Can you sit by a window that looks out onto a garden, or open the window and listen for birdsong?
You can also connect with nature online. Try searching YouTube for ‘nature walk’ or if there’s a place you’d really love to go, such as the Peak District or Lake District try searching for videos that show those places. Try to really focus on the video and pretend you’re there. You can also find audio clips of birdsong and other nature noises online, or buy them on CD (or however you like listening to music).
Source: British Heart Foundation