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How reconnecting with nature can heal the stresses of social distancing

We were sent this wonderful blog to share from Sarah Ivens

A Green Prescription for Stress in Strange Times

How reconnecting with nature can heal the stresses of social distancing

When I’m tired, wrought, or worried about something (real or imagined), I turn to Mother Nature. Embracing the great outdoors, whatever the weather, unfailingly brings a sense of awe and gratitude, and coats me warmly with a sense of calm – even on a depressing April morning when our worlds are falling apart. I’m not alone. A recent study of 20,000 published in Scientific Reports concluded that spending just two hours per week in nature, in short stints or in one epic engagement, is enough to boost mental health and wellbeing. Spending time amongst the trees does everything from reduce blood pressure, depression, and anxiety, to improving sleep, creativity and energy. Have we ever needed this more? Writing yourself a green prescription is the prettiest, easiest way to address our need for social isolation while still getting fresh air, natural light, Vitamin D and a mental lift

  • Notice your surroundings. Meditate on how Mother Nature moves and change as you wait for the kettle to boil in the morning. What shapes are the clouds making? What colours are the leaves turning? Studies show a brain observing nature is more open to reflect, wander and be creative. Take your morning coffee to the window or the back garden and take it all in.
  • If your mind is too anxious – and who can blame you – for daydreaming or meditating, take other mindful pursuits outside. Find a quiet, pretty spot in your garden or by a window and draw what you see, do some yoga stretches, or make notes in your gratitude journal. Wrap up warm and go for a walk with a family member, using your five senses and keeping the conversation at bay until you’ve made it to your end point. Quiet contemplation under a canopy of trees – it is scientifically proven – restores focus and attention span.
  • Research shows that even looking at pictures of nature reduces mental fatigue and increases positive thinking. Switch your phone lock screen and laptop screensaver image to your favourite nature photo, frame artwork from beloved beauty spots, and buy yourself a nature-themed colouring book. Just looking at a green scene decreases the stress-related hormones cortisol and adrenaline, which helps us to calm down.
  • Focusing on small details from the natural world enables our brains to switch off from work worries and think more creatively, so keep plants on your desk, treat yourself to a bunch of flowers for your bedside at weekends, hang air plants in your bathroom – these little nods to nature will boost general happiness and allow you to switch mental gears.
  • A warm bath soothes muscles, induces comfort, relieves cold symptoms and helps us sleep better and adding woody essential oils (Cypress and Juniper Berry are my favourites!) to the water for a true ‘forest bath’ boosts the medicinal benefits. Studies show valuable antibacterial, antifungal chemicals emitted by trees called phytoncides make their way into the bottles of good quality oils.
  • Multitask! Make a difficult situation into a positive one – with new rules on working from home, instead of sitting in an airless, grey conference room, you can take your work meetings outside into your back garden or on to your balcony. Studies show concentration and creativity both improve when work decisions are made outdoors. And now you can’t go with your partner for a chat in a noisy, packed coffee shop – make your coffee at home to go and walk for an hour instead – you’ll be able to focus on your conversation more, and get the feel-good endorphins from moving your body, too.
  • Turn your fingers green with some inside gardening. Horticultural therapy is real and even indoors in the colder months, the benefits of growing and nourishing plants from cuttings and creating new life inspires mindfulness and contentment. Spider plants and succulents flourish all year round – or make the most of the Spring sun and turn a bright windowsill into an indoor herb or tomato garden.

Sarah Ivens, is the author of Forest Therapy: Seasonal Ways to Embrace Nature for a Happier You (Piatkus), out now.



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