These past few weeks and months have provided many of us with the unexpected opportunity to spend more time in the great outdoors. Unable to work or go outside unless for essential reasons, like shopping or exercise, many of us have turned to walking, running and riding our bikes as the motivating factor in leaving our homes.
Shopping online has become a way of life for many, with home delivery for food, clothes and all manner of goods gaining in popularity. Services have been increasingly sourced online too with exercise classes, zoom meetings and networking being introduced to many homes.
Many children have been home-educated and parents have desperately sought a variety of ways to entertain, amuse and tire their children. Baking has found unprecedented levels of popularity. So, as an alternative to being hunched up over a computer or being cooped up indoors many people have looked to seek some joy through spending time in nature.
Spending time in nature is important for many reasons.
- We've been fortunate with some wonderful weather over the summer months, a blessing which provided space and time away from the four walls of our homes. Many families have never spent so much time together other than during Christmas or holidays, which may be fine when you know how long it's going to last, you're still in employment and life is good.
- Setting in place some semblance of routine helps introduce a little control back into our lives, a reason to get up, wash, change out of our pyjamas and reclaim some order. Spending regular time outdoors can do that, giving a sense of purpose, achievement and maybe even the opportunity to enjoy pleasant conversations with other family members or have a little personal time alone.
- It's important to remember that time outdoors in nature delivers many important health benefits. We're able to top up our vitamin D levels, breathe deeply of clean fresh air, maybe walk strenuously as well as increase our fitness and oxygen levels. Also, the autumn and winter months encourage hibernation, where we make more melatonin and feel sleepy. Top up your serotonin levels by getting outdoors in the daylight and consequently feeling brighter. Plus, support your eyes by refocusing away from computer screens and enjoying the distant views.
- Smells too! The blossom as we walk past, leaves and undergrowth as we kick along or even the unexpected whiff as a nearby farm dispenses slurry on their fields.
- Turning off constant noise is important. Some people choose to run, walk or ride and have podcasts or phones keeping them company. But sometimes turning off unrelated noise and stimulus allows your time in nature to be a more immersive experience. The sounds of nature, early morning birdsong, the rustle of the reeds which alert you to youngsters being on the move, even the gentle grazing of sheep or cattle can be a very special part of your day.
- Committing to regular time in nature means that over the year we get to enjoy the newly hatched ducklings, watch their progress and feel proud when their mama sees several of her youngsters survive, a gentle reminder that nature can be harsh but still 'turns up' each day. We can marvel at the way delicate, fragile wildflowers still bloom, even after drought, torrential rain or harsh winter weather.
- We're able to smile as we see the amazing crèche system operated by geese; they've been known to collect up to 40 youngsters as they travel along the waterways. Or watch protective swans safeguard their cygnets, see heron, partridge, foxes in their natural habitat, warily allowing us to pass.
- And then there are the familiar faces, where we exchange a smile, a nod or even a few words of greeting if our daily walk has become a regular feature of our lives. Dog walkers often exchange pleasantries which sometimes result in new friendships, recommendations and keeping up-to-date with local news.
- There's a different pace of life in nature, a pace that doesn't need a watch or clock. Sometimes it's full of joy, other times it's less so. But it's good to detach from our own world and values for a time, especially at the moment when many of us are weighed down with cares and scarcely know what day it is or what the future holds.
- Taking a break from the house is important. If the weather's bad you can wrap up warm and then come home to steaming mugs of hot chocolate, a warm bath or perhaps a meal that's been slowly cooking whilst you've been out. Enjoy the change of scenery, the time to do something together as a family, chatting, sharing a walk, game or nature trail, tending the allotment, or having some personal time on your own to disconnect, relax and clear your mind.
For many reasons spending time in nature has become a very rewarding time.
Susan Leigh, Altrincham, Cheshire, South Manchester counsellor, hypnotherapist, relationship counsellor, writer & media contributor offers help with relationship issues, stress management, assertiveness and confidence. She works with individual clients, couples and provides corporate workshops and support.
She's author of 3 books, 'Dealing with Stress, Managing its Impact', '101 Days of Inspiration #tipoftheday' and 'Dealing with Death, Coping with the Pain', all on Amazon & with easy to read sections, tips and ideas to help you feel more positive about your life.
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