By Coach Delisa Deavenport, MBA, CPC
Have you ever felt anxious or frustrated and just needed to take a walk in the woods? Taking a short vacation from your busy life and seeking a break from your daily struggle by disappearing in nature can feel wonderful. Nature can really calm the soul.
Maybe you take a boat to the lake. Maybe grab your surfboard and head to the waves. Some of us have a rustic cabin in a country environment or take a stroll down a walking path surrounded by God’s creations. I personally love picnics in the park and photoshoots where I disappear into trees, flowers, and lakes all around me. Below are 5 of my favorite ways that nature can calm your anxiety.
- Nature Takes Us Back to the Basics
In today’s world, we live in an unquestionably strenuous environment. Modern technology is responsible for the fast-paced lifestyle and information overload. It is no wonder, your system begins to unwind when you are among the trees under blue skies. Your system resets in this slow paced, beautiful environment. It reminds us of simpler times when people lived in the woods.
Oh, no doubt, life was hard back in those days. However, people still lived a simple life. People of yesteryear focused on one task at a time while natural beauty surrounded life. Your body responds better to a natural environment. In today’s urban environment, your body constantly plays catch up while it receives hundreds of stimuli at once.
You multi-task while your brain tries to process thousands of thoughts every day. Your body responds to activities in nature by replacing anxiety-producing chemicals with those chemicals that bring on a serene, peaceful feeling. When things spiral out of control, I take a drive out in the country. Sometimes I visit the local wildlife preserve snapping pictures along the way. I invite you to use nature when you find yourself experiencing anxiety to take yourself back to the basics.
- Nature Brings Us Closer to God
Everyone has a plan, designed by God, to fulfill our life’s purpose; even you. When my anxiety rises up, I realize it means I have strayed away from God’s plan for me. Many times, high anxiety means it is time for you to go into God’s country. A visit in nature is a sure-fire relaxation solution.
Once you are in nature, you realize that everything around you is made by God. There are fallen trees for something to sit on. There is yesterday, today and tomorrow staring back at you all at once. Kevin Green reminds us that “Nature reveals the endless creativity of the Lord”. Nature speaks to your soul when you surround yourself with God’s natural creations. Once nature rests you, anxiety is replaced with calmness.
It is then, that you can feel the inner voice calling you back to His plan. I have come to realize, that no matter how many times I try to control my life, God’s plan is always infinitely a better one. Armed with His wisdom, given to you in the middle of His creations, you can reenter your life with focus and a serene heart. When you feel overwhelmed and off track, go to a park, put a blanket on the ground and sit in amazement at God’s creation. That is exactly what I do. Ask Him to put you back on track.
- Nature Gets Creative Juices Flowing
People experiencing anxiety due to writer’s block can get the creative juices flowing by spending some quality time in the country. I know when I get stuck, I go to a cabin in the woods for the weekend. Did you know that a study, performed by the University of Kansas and the University of Utah, found that backpackers showed a 50% improvement in creativity after spending 4 days out hiking in nature?
The study shows that being in nature not only helps restore higher-order thinking but also restores attention for boosting creativity. When you spend time in a natural environment, it changes how you view time. Deadlines, task lists, information rushing by, all disappear and nature’s slow pace regenerates you. After all, nature is all about regenerating as it continually creates more nature. Next time you experience a creative block, why not take a journal or canvas out in among the trees and see what happens? You will experience amazement. Nature inspires.
- Nature Enhances Memory
Would you believe that spending time outside in nature improves your memory? According to a study conducted by the University of Michigan, it found that nature improved memory 20%. The findings were true despite whether temperatures were cold or warm. Surprisingly the findings were consistent, even if the subjects were looking at pictures of nature as opposed to actually being outside.
Nature has the effect of slowing down distractions in your life. I call this noise pollution because just like audio noise, noise pollution is anything that is distracting you. An article by Remez Sasson estimates that between 2,100 to 3,300 thoughts run through our brain every hour. I am exhausted just trying to comprehend this finding. Eliminating some of your brain’s responsibilities with a trip back to God’s creations will surely improve your memory function.
- Touching the Earth Heals Anxiety
“The body, when grounded in the earth, returns to its natural electrical homeostasis as part of the living electrical matrix” according to a book called Earthing. This process of when “our conductive bodies naturally equalize with the earth” is accomplished when we physically touch the earth, not just by being in nature. It happens when you take off your shoes and walk on the grass or when you garden without gloves. A rebalance of energy naturally takes place when your skin contacts any surface of the earth.
Among the many health benefits of earthing is calming anxiety. It makes sense. The body’s nervous system is all about electrochemical neurons. These neurons get off balance when you are experiencing high anxiety. Earthing puts your body back in sync to a stabilized state of grounding. You don’t have to wait until you are experiencing anxiety to reset your body’s electrical charged nervous system. Go outside and take a walk barefoot on the beach, grass or dirt.
As I manage my anxiety, nature plays a major role. As you can see, nature has so many effects on your body. I encourage you to get out in nature as often as you can and most certainly when you need a calming reset. For those times when a trip to the country is not realistic, find other ways to connect with nature. You can visit an arboretum or take a walk on the nature path most likely in your city. When you are stuck indoors or at home, I encourage you to take a mini mind vacation in nature via your friendly internet. Nature heals.
This article was originally published on January 4, 2019.
Atchley, R.A., Strayer, D.L., & Atchley, P. (2012). Creativity in the Wild: Improving Creative Reasoning through Immersion in Natural Settings. Retrieved from https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0051474
Berman-Jonides et al, (2012). Interacting with Nature Improves Cognition and Affect for Individuals with Depression. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3393816/
Green, K., Why do you feel close to God in nature? Retrieved from http://kevingreenwired.com/2015/06/01/why-do-you-feel-close-to-god-in-nature/
Lynch, B. (2012, April 23). Researchers find time in wild boosts creativity, insight and problem-solving. Retrieved from http://archive.news.ku.edu/2012/april/23/outdoors.shtml
Ober, C., Sinatra, S., & Zucker M. (2014). Earthing. Columbus, OH: Basic Health Publication, Inc.
Sasson, R., How Many Thoughts Does Your Mind Think in One Hour? Retrieved from https://www.successconsciousness.com/blog/inner-peace/how-many-thoughts-does-your-mind-think-in-one-hour/
Delisa Deavenport is the founder of Healthy Evolutions, LLC, a coaching company that focuses on learning quieting techniques to find your direction, purpose and joy.
Coach Delisa shares her message to “Find Your Direction in Your Quiet” and authored a book by the same title, published in March 2019. She describes her life with an undiagnosed anxiety disorder and how she finally learned to manage her anxiety, quit drinking and find joy and purpose. She is currently writing a book titled “One Man’s Courage, One Mother’s Strength”, the story of fighting for her son’s survival from alcohol, malnutrition, dehydration over a two-year period stunning the medical profession with his complete recovery.
Before devoting her life’s work to coaching and public speaking, Delisa worked in the nonprofit finance world after obtaining her bachelor’s degree in Business Administration from Walsh College and her MBA in Leadership from Argosy University. She is an active member of Toastmasters, a certified speaker and Legacy instructor from the Ziglar Corporation, a certified coach from the Professional Coach Academy and her proudest accomplishment – “granny’ to a precious little boy named DJ.