by MCF Clinical Supervisor Ronnie Biemans, MA, LCPC
The other day I took a few minutes to myself during a busy day to sit outside. I closed my eyes, and turned inward. Following my own breath and engaging my senses, I noticed the amazing waves of sound as the cicadas called to one another. Very soon I felt calmed and grounded by this experience. The sound came and went, came and went, like an ocean wave—not water, but sound. I find that time spent in nature, whether walking or meditating, is a balm to my occasionally frazzled self. When needed, Mother Nature is always available to me.
Numerous studies have been conducted in an attempt to establish the benefits of spending time in nature; some of those benefits are:
- improved attention spans (short- and long-term);
- increased levels of serotonin (the
- increased brain activity in those areas responsible for empathy
and emotional stability; and
- increased energy levels, from just 20 minutes outside per day.
According to an article in The New York Times, “A walk in the park may soothe the mind and, in the process, change the workings of our brains in ways that improve our mental health. Most of us today live in cities and spend far less time outside in green, natural spaces than people did several generations ago. City dwellers have a higher risk for anxiety, depression and other mental illnesses than people living outside urban centers. Various studies have found that urban dwellers with little access to green spaces have a higher incidence of psychological problems than people living near parks and that city dwellers who visit natural environments have lower levels of stress hormones immediately afterward than people who have not recently been outside.”
The Japanese rave about the benefits of Forest Bathing,
also known as shirin-yoku. Forest Bathing is a practice of walking in a relaxed way through a natural area that involves immersion in the experience
through the senses, sight, hearing, taste, smell and touch. It is a process wherein one is fully and completely taking in and savoring the forest.
If the practice of forest bathing is not for you, no worries, just go and find your own nature connection—beach, forest, park, or garden. Savor and
enjoy. You won’t regret it.