Judy O’Byrne, Counsellor and Art Therapist, Cancer Society Wellington
Two weeks ago our blog focused on the importance of hope and then last week was written to support those who are caregivers and support others. Both have highlighted the value to taking time to care for ourselves in the midst of challenging times.
Today I am wanting to focus on an activity that can be a huge resource for us at any time or stage in our lives.
Connecting with nature
We move steady, with a slightly deeper breath
Our eyes leading, can lift to the sky
We take in the sounds of life and notice
the warmth of the sun or the wild Wellington wind
The air smells faintly … maybe the sea
Our body and heart can move with freedom
To feel the warmth of a smile passing by
Minds can rest or thoughts pass by …for a time
Finally, we pause to take in the moment to connect with the nature of ourselves.
Many of us have experienced for ourselves the benefits of choosing to step outside our doors over the past couple of months. We are experiencing what academic literature reports as:
“a large body of internationally relevant modern research [which]suggests that exposure to natural environments has direct positive effects on health and wellbeing” (Blaschke, 2013).
The NZ Mental Health Foundation stated that the evidence of the health and wellbeing benefits of being in nature is “irrefutable” (April 2016).
There are as many ways to connect with nature as there are unique individuals and kinds of nature on our planet. The main thing is to take moments to do it and notice what is there. But here are a few suggestions to play with.
If you can’t go outside is it possible be near windows so that you can see nature? And find photos or images of nature and/or watch nature programs. Ask people to bring a few shells, stones, twigs or flowers to touch or see. (I am very grateful for the picture board of natural spaces that hangs from the ceiling above my dentist’s chair).
While it can be good to go with others experiment with heading outside on you own (if you can) and notice how the experience is different.
Try to remember to take a moment to be still. Notice what you can see … hear … taste … smell …touch …
You might like to take a camera or use your phone to take a photo or maybe take pencil and paper to sit a bit longer to draw of write.
On your way home collect some small item (a pebble, shell, twig) that appeals to you (without damaging our wonderful environment) and keep it on your bench for a few days before returning it back to where it belongs.
If you have the chance take the time to touch, move and play with what is around you. (Though be aware of leaving the area as you found it for others to enjoy).
Throughout the ages many cultures and religions have used a form of art called a “mandala” to represent their spiritual connection with the world. It is usually a round design consisting of symmetrical patterns and shapes. Creating a mandala out of natural materials is an easy way to engage with natural elements. Find a quiet space and select sticks, shells, leaves, stones etc. and a spot to create your mandala. Just place them within a circle.
I hope these suggestions are useful for you.Taking time to connect with your natural environment can be a great way to help give you a renewed sense of purpose, and help you face tough times with increased energy.
Blaschke, P. (2013) Department of Conservation. Health and wellbeing benefits of conservation in New Zealand, Science for conservation 321. Accessed 18 May, 2020 from https://www.doc.govt.nz/Documents/science-and-technical/sfc321entire.pdf