How to use nature to combat stress
I feel like I blog a lot about stress, stress reduction and stress management. My intention is not to focus on the negative, but to simply call attention to the types of dysfunction that we can alter. Iyengar touches on why spiritual philosophies often tend to harp on the negative (grasping desires, weaknesses, faults, and imbalances). They are trying to find, examine, and eradicate the things that cause us suffering. It's so that we can understand what can go wrong, and why, and how to stop it.
Your body sends healthy or "good" stress signals when you are hungry, when you stub your big toe or when something is amiss in your body. For many people though, we also experience stress when we are in a conversation, waiting for something, or managing our to-do lists.
Stress is meant to be an informative red flag, but for many of us, it tends to be a constant subconscious state of arousal.
I like to think about the way that animals within nature live their lives. We can learn a lot from studying and observing the natural world around us. Here are a few lessons we might take from nature:
1) Animals do not exert any excess effort for survival. If an animal can function at 75% effort, they will not push any extra. As humans, we tend to over-exert and cause extra stress because we like to show off, people-please, or strive for perfection. Ultimately, this ego-driven lifestyle only causes us suffering.
2) Animals do not worry about the future. The gift of our developed mind has plagued us with habits of worrying, anticipating, excitement, and looking ahead. Although we do need to plan for the future, animals live moment to moment in the present, addressing one thing at a time.
3) Animals automatically shut off their stress signals. Observe the way that animals move and exist in their natural environment. When not in immediate danger, animals simply do not remain stressed. Our fight or flight response is meant to be useful, not habitual.
In addition to the lessons we can learn from animals, simply being within nature is therapeutic for many reasons. I was recently reading some of the diaries of Anne Frank and I loved that one of her favorite ways to de-stress was to spend time in nature.
“The best remedy for those who are afraid, lonely or unhappy is to go outside, somewhere where they can be quite alone with the heavens, nature and God. Because only then does one feel that all is as it should be and that God wishes to see people happy, amidst the simple beauty of nature. As long as this exists, and it certainly always will, I know that then there will always be comfort for every sorrow, whatever the circumstances may be. And I firmly believe that nature brings solace in all troubles.” ― Anne Frank, The Diary of a Young Girl
Sometimes, reading simple reflections like this really helps me to put my stress in perspective, so that's why I'm sharing it. If Anne Frank can cultivate peace through the beauty of nature, then it can certainly be of help to me.
Have you tried seeking out a quiet spot in nature to clear your head? It doesn't have to be a completely private and silent spot to have an effect, but you can observe any small microcosm. Whether it's sitting inside, looking at your backyard, heading to a park to sit in the woods or practicing yoga outside, natural beauty has a way of showing us it's intricate perfection and making us and our troubles feel smaller by comparison. And spring is a perfect time to try it! :)