FINDING STRENGTH IN NATURE
Our relationship with our own mental wellbeing has changed so much over the last few years. Self-care was a term we heard a lot, as was mental resilience, and suddenly there’s been an upsurge in practices like meditation, yoga, pilates and even combat-for-fitness regimes. We want to feel strong, connected with our bodies and minds. In essence, less vulnerable to the stresses of our daily lives. But when making a shift towards greater overall wellbeing, it’s easy to lose sight of what really recharges us while we’re counting calories, steps, reps and breaths. We sometimes forget that before we got so clever, nature was our greatest refuge.
During the making of JAN the Journal Volume 9, we explored the art of forest bathing on a trip to Knysna on South Africa’s Garden Route – arguably home to our country’s most beautiful forests. It’s not so much about taking a dip in a pond in the forest, but rather about immersing yourself in a green space. Since the 1980s, when this fitness trend took hold in Japan, a great deal of research has been done on the physiological effects of spending time in nature, and the findings were fascinating. “Forest bathing” was found to:
- Improve your overall mood and mental wellbeing
- Increase feelings of calmness, and
- Increase endorphin levels (good mood hormones).
It’s very personal, and different for each person, but give it a try and find out for yourself. There are only three things to keep in mind when taking your first steps back into nature:
FIND YOUR HAPPY PLACE
If the idea of stepping on a rotting log freaks you out, opt for a slightly more manicured green space than an ancient, untouched forest. The space must resonate with you, and be safe, because you also want to leave any electronic distractions like phones or cameras behind. You’re not doing this for the Instagram photo op.
HAVE NO PLAN
Slow and aimless are the operative words here. You’ve got nowhere to be by eleven o’clock, no one to please, just yourself to look after. This is about you. Take advantage of it.
Let your senses inhale the space. Take in every sound, every colour, every texture, smell. Taste the air. Feel the cracks in the bark, the cracking of the leaves beneath your feet. Talk to yourself like no one’s listening, but then, become silent. There’s a rhythm here that pulses to a different beat. Let it wash over you.
You can do this with other people, but choose your companions wisely. Not everyone can appreciate it for what it is. Enter into it with no judgment or cynicism. Be open. This is your time to reconnect with a rawer version of yourself. If you succeed, you will most likely find that the things that stressed you out before, somehow seem less important now.