Earth Day 2019 – Re-sourcing in Nature
Earth Day 2019 is an international celebration of the magnificent planet we call home, and an invitation to take the actions necessary to help the planet itself be resilient in recovering from the effects of climate change, de-forestation, pollution, etc.
Earth Day is also a reminder that we can spend time in nature to recover from the stresses and disasters in our own lives, including the deepening worry about the survival of our species, the survival of the planet earth that sustains all of the life known in the universe.
I frequently remind my clients and workshop participants of the trillion ways spending time in nature helps us recover our resilience. [See Nature Makes Us Healthier, Happier, and More Creative]
1. Just a moment of awe in nature – viewing a panoramic sunset or the star-filled night sky – is enough to expand our perspective about the world we live in and our place in it.
2. Leisurely forest walks reliably decrease cortisol levels and blood pressure, help the nervous system re-set and re-balance itself.
3. “Resting” the brain in nature – contemplating the beauty of a natural landscape – restores attention, sharpens cognition, and improves planning and problem solving.
4. Even 10 minutes walking in a park improves memory, cognitive functioning, and creativity.
5. Brisk exercise in nature – hiking, biking, skiing, etc. – releases BDNF, the brain’s growth hormone, causing the birth of new neurons in the hippocampus, the structure of the brain we use for learning and long-term memory.
6. “Urban” nature – being in or near parks, lawns, gardens – help people recover from illness, injury, and surgery more quickly and with less pain.
7. Working together with other people to protect and restore the earth – volunteer beach-clean up days, community gardens, community recycling centers, shelters for endangered species, etc. reduces anxiety, depression, and loneliness and creates sustaining social connections.
Exercise: Renew Your Spirit and Recover Your Resilience – Spend Time in Nature
1. Walk in a city park for 30 minutes. Try adding elements of sensing and savoring – smelling the grass, feeling the sun and breeze on your skin, hearing birds or children laughing, lifting your eyes off the sidewalk to the horizon of trees and hills.
2. Pay attention to “accidental nature,” noticing landscaped flower beds at the local gas station, grocery store, bank, or library.
3. Walk to and from work or walk at lunchtime, finding whatever greenery is available, perhaps even bringing some greenery back into your office.
4. Spend time tending plants in your home or gardening a flower bed or vegetable patch outdoors.
5. Go for a Sunday drive in a rural, wooded area, then stop and get out of the car; take in the sights, sounds, smells for 5-15 minutes.
6. Volunteer for a local park clean-up day on Earth Day, or any day of the year. Share in the joy of contributing to the health of the earth while building social and community connections.
7. Go outside before you go to bed, noticing whatever you can of clouds, moon, stars, quiet.
Notice the soothing of your senses and the restoring of order within; the noticing helps deepen the re-sourcing.