Resilience – Especially When Things Get Messy
As we learned in this interview with Natalie Bell, re-centering ourselves, finding safety and comfort in nature, can be a powerful resource when things fall apart. Here’s a practice in soothing our senses in nature from Resilience.
I go to nature to be soothed and healed, and to have my senses put in order.
-John Burroughs, Studies in Nature and Literature
As stress levels rise in our modern, urban, overly plugged-in society, people are seeking the calming effects of immersing the body-brain in nature, and science is documenting the validity of that intuitive wisdom.
1. Find a forest or a park with plenty of greenery to walk in for thirty to ninety minutes. (According to Florence Williams, author of The Nature Fix, longer periods have been shown to have a more positive effect on the brain.) You can walk by yourself; you can walk with a friend or with a group of people. But silence is also helpful to the brain in recovering its equilibrium: with less stimulation for the brain to process, there is more restfulness and restoration.
2. Begin to walk slowly, bathing in the input from all five senses:
seeing the shape of a leaf, the variety of tree shapes, the clouds in the sky;
smelling pine needles or the fresh air or the damp earth;
hearing bird song or the rustle of the wind, and perhaps the lapping or babbling of water if there is a pond or stream nearby;
touching moss on a twig or lichen on a rock or sand/pebbles beneath your feet;
tasting a berry, if available (and edible.
3. Walk even more slowly, breathe more slowly, perhaps pausing to stand still, noticing the changes of light and shadow, movement and stillness around you. Pause to notice shifts within you, your energy, or your mood.
4. At the end of your walk, take a moment to reflect on your overall experience, especially any shifts in your bodily, felt experience.
This exercise can reliably produce decreases in blood pressure and cortisol levels. Researchers have found that immersion in nature for five hours per month (that’s about ten minutes a day, or thirty minutes two or three times a week) is enough to yield positive long-term effects on physical and mental health.