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Turning to Nature for Recovery, Hope, Connection

We all know the struggle is real. Yet each of us is having a unique experience within this pandemic. We are witnessing horrors, facing overwhelming fears, putting on brave faces, and bearing chronic stress. Each day there is change happening out our front doors, but also out on the horizon. We can not even buckle down into some sort of rhythm. So how do we move through? How do we harbor hope?

My answer, and one that has been with us longer than dirt itself, is nature. The natural world around us keeps me getting out of bed every morning, showing up for my young daughter, and working to make the world just a little bit better than it was the day before.

Here are 10 ways that nature gives me a loving kick in the pants when I am stuck in a pity party of one.

#1 Never lonely

I can be alone in nature or share the space with others, but I am never lonely when I am exploring the outdoors. Even when all the birds, squirrels, and butterflies seem to be napping; clouds, insects, and budding leaves can be companions when all my people are busy with other things. I just have to lean in and listen with my whole body.

#2 Deep time

What is Deep Time? Looking at the world from a perspective that is glacial, geological, planetary, and universal. Deep Time is so long that it makes me feel small (in a good way). When basking in the natural world I remember that I am a spec. Humanity is a blip on a celestial timescale. My giant problems and the globe’s giant problems begin to feel less oppressive. Humans may keep abusing our Earth, but the sun will shine on until it collapses in about 5 billion years.

#3 Green spaces reduce stress

Scientific studies from noted institutes like Texas A & M University, University of Michigan, and University California, Berkeley are researching and finding that natural environments can increase recovery from stress. I have felt this for years, and I am happy to see the science to back up these feelings!

#4 Small space can hold great things

Get down on your hands and knees and explore a 2’ x 2’ patch of earth at ground level. You will be shocked and amazed at all the life that can squeeze into such a small boundary.

#5 Nature is home

I was not actually born and bred in a briar patch, but humans as a species have spent many a year living and adapting to the great outdoors. Although our American modern culture has left most of us sleeping with a lot of “stuff” between us and the ground and the sky with a few creature comforts like a sleeping pad and sleeping bag I am quite cozy snoozing under the stars night after night.

#6 Something new to learn

Even when I visit the same yard, the same trail, the same park lawn time and time again without fail I can find something new or overlooked. It just takes a couple of minutes to settle my breathing and my focus. Then BAM! Something new and cool pops up.

#7 Sharable

All things are better when shared and nature is no exception. I get special joy when sharing my nature observations with kids. Their delight is contagious! I know I am perpetuating love and respect for all things natural when I can point out something tiny or massive happening outdoors to an unsuspecting companion. Curiosity about the natural world is one of the greatest gifts I feel I can share with others.

#8 No reservations needed

Spontaneity is one of my go-to stress breakers. So when I am in deep I will suddenly jump up, dash outside into the sun (or rain), and feel like I have the power to help myself to feel better.

#9 Exercise + nature = goodness

I think we will agree by now that nature is good for humans. If you add in the benefits of exercise, like walking, running, or biking that helps you breathe deeply, then you get a twofer!

#10 Out the back door

Don’t let distance shut you down. A quick trip around your block or a snack sitting on the back steps can be just as powerful as a hike in the mountains. As little as 15 minutes a day in nature can help you feel better about yourself, your community, and the world.

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