Have you ever felt unhappy without understanding why?
I am certain that being disconnected from the natural world and spending so much time indoors affects us in ways we are only just beginning to understand.
There is a way to ease the suffering, and you can get started right now!
This is part 2 of a 2-part blog about nature connection. Read part 1 here for an overview; what is nature connection, the benefits and how you can start your own personal practice.
This second part is more of a deep dive into how my own relationship with nature helped me process my emotions during the Coronavirus pandemic. I’m sharing it for mental health awareness week and I hope it will encourage you to start your own practice so that you too can get in touch with a more resilient version of yourself.
Note: I remain relatively unaffected by the virus. My heart goes out to everyone who is more seriously affected either directly or indirectly.
🌳 Before the lockdown 🌳
Cast your mind back to early March, a couple of weeks before the UK went into full lockdown. My 4-year-old son Leo developed a persistent, barking cough. Although he was fine in himself, following the guidelines, I kept him off nursery. Feeling concerned and frustrated, I cancelled work commitments and planned outings.
As the days progressed, I watched the virus spreading across the world in dismay; my anxiety was as high as it’s ever been in my life. I felt a paralysing fear in both body and mind – was Coronavirus about to change my whole life? Were we safe? Would I be able to get enough food and pay the bills?
So many unknowns and I was feeling scared and helpless.
I couldn’t think straight and the overwhelm had brought me to a standstill. I was obsessively watching the news now, gulping down all the grief and panic into my body, even though I knew I shouldn’t (oh how I hate the ‘shoulds’ and ‘oughts’!). Just as Leo was due to go back to nursery after a fortnight off, we went into full on lockdown. Aaarrrgggghhh! More strangeness, and now my business was closed.
Although gutted, I also felt relief; at least now we had some certainty and hopefully lives would be saved.
🌳 Lockdown Life 🌳
I felt a strong urge to focus on the simple things in life and in particular, the natural world. Where possible I allowed Leo to take the lead to build on his confidence and problem-solving skills, all the time remembering how lucky we both were to be largely untouched by the virus and to have this bonus time together before he starts school.
We pushed the two sun beds together and stretched out without an agenda, simply tuning into our surroundings. Mealtimes moved outdoors and we read lots of books. We listened to the birds singing and chattering to one another, watched them building nests, eating, drinking and bathing. We closed our eyes and felt the warmth from the sun on our skin, the breeze from the wind and sometimes the vibrations as a bumble bee buzzed closely past.
That Leo was instigating much of this filled my heart with admiration and contentment.
Our time amongst nature left us refreshed and restored, and to be honest, I think Leo was having the time of his life. However, being constantly available for a little person is draining, as many of you know.
There is only so much time you can play traffic jams with trains, cars, dinosaurs etc (and apparently I do that all wrong 🙂 ) or debate relentlessly about why it’s important to eat, drink, brush our teeth and wear clothing (I don’t even really mind what!), before wanting to run for the hills.
I had nothing left to give at the end of each day, and still stand by my opinion that full time (and unpaid) Mummying is harder than many full-time jobs that come with a wage.
Without a doubt my greatest achievement of that first week though, was setting my 75-year-old, technophobe Dad up on Zoom. And I did it all from the other end of a phone…. some of you can probably imagine what the experience was like!! The air did indeed turn blue 🙂 We actually had our first call afterwards too, and although I could only see the very top of his head throughout, we marked it down as a success.
This virtual contact helped alleviate some of the worry about my parents, but I was still concerned about friends, finances, and desperately disappointed at having to close Adore Your Outdoors. Just as the sessions were selling out, and the weather was glorious. Advertising campaigns I’d planned and paid for months ago were starting… without an audience. I wasn’t eligible for financial help.
I was angry at the unfairness of it all, and most definitely riding the ‘emotional coronacoaster’.
Head full and feeling stuck, I knew I was struggling and needed a release. When Leo went to his Dad’s I caught up on the gardening, zoomed with friends and started some therapeutic colouring.
This was the calm before the storm and the following day I awoke feeling unsettled, lonely, isolated and scared…. not to mention somewhat cheesed off at the wind which was gusting with gusto outside (I have never liked more than a very gentle breeze).
I turned to nature and found the solace I sought.
🌳 Time to heal 🌳
I went for a walk around the fields bordering my village. The wind was raging through my hair and clothes, and although it had been cloudy and grey all day, the sun was now shining brightly. The colours all around seemed more alive than ever before.
And surprisingly, I found myself loving the ferocity of the wind.
I closed my eyes, faced the sun and savoured the feeling of being cleansed, unburdened and set free. And as I started walking again, I began to cry. It felt so good to let it go, I didn’t stop for over an hour. I wasn’t just crying for myself; I released a lot of sadness for the collective suffering going on.
I wanted to get my step count and heart rate up, but as I find often these days, Mother Nature had other ideas. She kept practically shoving gorgeousness into my face, forcing me to notice and to get in touch with feelings of awe and wonder.
The crow flying high above in the sky, was it the same one I’d interacted with before? Blossom bursting forth everywhere. The lush, vibrant green of the grass. It was mesmerising to watch how it moved in the wind; the entire field changed direction every few seconds. The hues of the blues in the sky; deeper directly above and paler at the front and back, and the few fluffy white clouds whizzing past, completely at the whim of the wind. Helping an oil beetle cross the path so it didn’t get squished. Each little thing I noticed, touched and soothed me deeper and deeper within.
I no longer felt disconnected and alone.
I have never been more grateful for my own connection to nature than during that walk. It was as though I went out as one person and came back another.
🌳 Coming out the other side 🌳
The next morning, I felt fresh, bright and lighter; back to my usual self. The wind had dropped but the sun was still shining and the birds were singing their hearts out.
I took the opportunity to record a guided nature connection meditation for my customers, something I’d been wanting to do for weeks. I did it barefoot and the soft, almost fluffy moss under foot was such a comfort.
I might not have been getting physical hugs, but this was almost as good. Connecting to the earth with bare feet is known as earthing, which is a therapeutic technique that involves doing activities that “ground” or electrically reconnect you to the earth. The earth’s surface is covered in negatively charged particles which help to cancel out the damaging positive charge emitted from technology and pollution; it is claimed.
I can’t comment on whether or not that’s true, but I know my body feels stronger and healthier after connecting to the earth in this way. Read more about Earthing.
It was as though I pressed a reset button that weekend, and I am certain I bounced back with such vigour thanks to my nature connectedness. Over the next few weeks I settled into lockdown life and if you have to do a lockdown, then Spring is the time to do it, let’s be honest!
Nature carried on doing her thing regardless of the turmoil, and as new life sprung up everywhere around me, I felt more confident that things would in the end be OK.
I’m sure if my personal circumstances were different it might not have been quite so straightforward, but I believe nature would try to help, as much as she could. The best feedback I’ve ever had was when someone living with ME said that she’d “forgotten about pain for the first time in as long as she could remember“, during the first guided meditation of the session (you see why I wanted to get a recording out there, it feels AMAZING to be able to help people like this).
Determined to make the most of the time with Leo and the gorgeous weather, we put in a small wildlife pond (sourcing all the equipment just before lockdown was unintentional genius!) set up the hedgehog cam, experimented with purple carrots and yellow courgette seeds, and even made stinging nettle crisps (genuinely delicious and so healthy!). We walked/scooted or biked every day and he’s even riding his bike without stabilisers now.
Yes, there’s still sadness, frustration, worry and fear, but I hope our nature adventures are the things we both remember most about lockdown.
🌳 How to develop your own nature connection 🌳
If you would like to begin your nature connection journey, the perfect place to start is on a guided Forest Therapy experience. I am able to group and offer one-to-one forest bathing sessions in a number of locations in Hampshire and Berkshire now.
Each session is:
- for just a few people
- outside in the fresh air and
- proven to benefit mental and physical health.
Want to know more?
Watch this 2 minute film showing a Forest Bathing session with Adore Your Outdoors:
In the previous blog I outline loads of other ways you can start to develop and deepen your connection to nature. It’s Mental Health Awareness Week in the UK on 18-25 May 2020. With that in mind, why not make a start now?
You can contact me via email firstname.lastname@example.org