It was suggested to me recently that getting out and connecting with nature would really help to ground me and improve my mental health. Of course, I knew this! We all know that taking that walk, breathing in the fresh air, smelling the flowers, getting stuck into the gardening – they are all fantastic mood boosters. But I wouldn’t necessarily do them – life often gets in the way of these things, and it became yet another thing for me to berate myself about not doing!
My friend admitted that they did not walk as much anymore due to mobility issues, and didn’t have a garden, so they enjoyed the few pots of herbs that they had growing on the windowsill. This got me thinking – what alternatives are there for people to get that nature hit when other life issues get in the way?
There could be lots of reasons people can't always go out into the countryside for walks or hikes in order to enjoy nature – health issues, disabilities, lack of green areas, social issues are just some.
Here are a few ways you can gain the benefits of nature, on a daily basis, without too much effort, whatever your circumstances:
Grow your own – OK, this one does require a little bit of effort, but there is much satisfaction to be gained from growing your own plants from seeds. You don’t have to have a garden, or even an outdoor space. A lot of herbs can be grown indoors on a windowsill. Seeing something you have created changing every day, growing and thriving, is such a happiness inducing experience.
Enjoy plants in your home – if growing from seed isn’t your thing, you can still invite nature into your home by decorating it with ready grown house plants and flowers. Take a minute each day to look at and enjoy your plants; examine the leaves and petals, observe how they may have changed. Make watering them and looking after them a mindful activity. Some people also sing to their plants – it is believed it makes them grow better!
Stop and smell the roses – not just the roses, but all of the plants! Some flowers and herbs have more distinct smells than others, but all plants will have some scent. I particularly love to rub my fingers over the leaves of the herbs I have growing in my garden – basil, mint, lemon balm, lavender – and smelling the scent on my hands, I can literally feel my mood lifting. Be mindful of the scents, and see if any evoke memories from the past.
=Essential oils – are oils extracted from various plants, flowers and herbs. They can be inhaled, or used diluted or undiluted on the skin, and have an abundance of physical, emotional and spiritual benefits. Essential oils are a great way of gaining some enjoyment from plants that you may not have access to at home or in your local area. I use essential oils in my treatment room, in a diffuser to scent the room, and blended into oils and balms for massage and reflexology. One of my favourite things to do when I arrive at work is get out my essential oil box and pick out a blend depending on what I feel I need that day, or what type of treatment or client I have. Just taking a few moments to smell the oils always puts me in such a calm, positive mood. Be aware if using at home that some oils do have precautions, so do your research first, and ensure you are using authentic, quality oils to get the full benefits.
Consume nature – something I am trying this year is making teas from my own herbs. If you haven't got your own flowers or herbs, fresh or dried plants can be bought
to make into teas, or add to food. Simply adding a sprinkle of homegrown basil to my pasta always makes it taste extra special! Maybe research what benefits different plants have, and build a little kitchen apothecary to suit your needs. When you consume your plants, make it into a meditative practice – imagine the goodness of the plant reaching all of the cells of your body, and healing you from within. It is sure to improve your mood and energy.
Use technology to enjoy nature – yes, really! It may sound counter intuitive, but hear me out. If watering the plants, making the teas, smelling the herbs etc all feels too much, you’re stuck in bed or on the sofa, for whatever reason, but you still need that grounding effect of nature, then try a soundscape on Youtube. Soundscape videos are usually a collection of images, or a video on a loop, with relaxing sounds or music played over the top. There are hundreds of nature based videos from forests, to waterfalls, to the beach, there is pretty much a soundscape for whatever you can imagine! I often have them on in the background when I am working, as it creates such a relaxing ambience. Even the kids seem calmer when the soundscapes are on! Alternatively, relaxing nature sounds can be found on various music listening apps – I often play music with nature sounds in my treatment room, it is so incredibly soothing. Another personal favourite of mine is the sound of a rainstorm, it really helps me sleep.
This is a link to a Spotify playlist that I often use in my treatment room:
Get visual – you don’t necessarily have to look at real life nature to get that nature hit. Looking at images can often have an effect on our mood and emotions. It is one of the reasons I am a bit of a Pinterest addict! Maybe decorate your home with beautiful photographs of nature, whether they have been taken by yourself or someone else. Even better, create your own artwork by drawing or painting a nature picture – it doesn’t need to be perfect, or used for display. Create a vision board incorporating lots of beautiful pictures of nature. Maybe use as a plan for your dream garden, or places in nature that you would love to visit in the future. The benefits of being creative alongside enjoying the beauty of nature is like a double whammy of serotonin!
There is no complete substitute for getting out into nature in real life. But with just a few tweaks to your environment and routine, you can still enjoy some of the benefits of nature on those days when leaving the house isn’t an option.