How a day out bush can improve your mood and reduce stress
Have you ever spent time outdoors, perhaps hiking or swimming, and wondered why you feel so energised afterward? Or, has being out in nature ever lifted your mood on an otherwise dull day? More often than not this is no coincidence, with researcher’s around the world increasingly discussing the link between nature based activity and improved wellbeing.
Hi, I’m Naomi and when I’m not trekking through the bush or finding new places to explore I’m the manager of clinical mental health services at Neami National in WA. The last decade has seen a real focus on wellbeing, particularly given it’s link to life expectancy, positive health behaviours and overall happiness. But what role does nature play in maintaining wellbeing and what can you do to make the most of it?
Natural environments such as parks, rivers and mountains elicit calming responses from the body by reducing negative mood states and increasing positive emotions. By doing this, they can help to alleviate the physical symptoms associated with stress such as high blood pressure, heart rate and muscle tension. Some research goes as far to suggest that nature acts as a protective factor in preventing stress and people who regularly spend time in nature are better able to respond to stress.
Sense of Connectedness
Humans are social beings and evolutionary scientists have long argued that humans have an innate desire to connect. But it’s not just our family and friends that we can connect with. In the same way that people across the world connect with culture, we can also connect with nature. Our First Nations people have done this for thousands of years and there’s a lot we can learn from them about why this is so important. Broadly speaking connection can be responsible for generating an internal sense of purpose, reflection and positive emotion. This sense of connectedness can result in increased wellbeing and leave us feeling happier and in more in tune with ourselves.
Grounding techniques help us to redirect our thoughts and focus on the present. They have been known to help alleviate feelings of anxiety, racing thoughts or rumination. Grounding can be performed anywhere, anytime however nature provides a peaceful and calming backdrop to practice these techniques. There is no right or wrong way to ground yourself, however the focus should be on orientating yourself to the here and now.
Next time you’re out in nature, take a moment to stop and practice grounding yourself. Close your eyes and find a deep breathing rhythm. Whilst maintaining that rhythm, focus on 5 things you can see, 4 things you can touch, 3 things you can hear, 2 things you can smell and 1 thing you can taste (or because I don’t recommend tasting plants you’re unfamiliar with, maybe try saying one nice thing about yourself instead). Really take your time to focus on each one and try to stay present. It might feel a little weird to start with but practice is key and trust me when I say your body will thank you for it.
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