I consider this daily practice one of the most important ways to restore health and happiness. Being outside in nature does so much for your spirits and your body. When you develop a regular practice of spending time outside, you become more aware. Of the birds chirping, of the wind rustling, of the warmth of the sun shining upon your face. This awareness boosts our vitality, our presence in this world and actually changes the chemical balance of our bodies! When we spend time in mindful awareness, especially outdoors in a natural environment, our neurotransmitter levels shift, flooding our systems with serotonin (“the happy hormone”) and reducing our levels of cortisol (“the stress hormone”). This balances our GABA levels, allowing for more restful sleep and a stronger immune system.
On a more emotional level, getting outside (especially when you are down) can help tremendously with issues and problems you may have in your life. I know from personal experience, when I am feeling really depressed I don’t want to go outside. But those are the times that you should definitely be out and about! Taking a walk to my neighborhood park or by the surrounding area of redwoods by my old house (boy, was I lucky in Berkeley!) did wonders. When you participate in nature, you begin to remember our part in this Universe and suddenly, your problems don’t seem so soul-crushing anymore. It gives the great gift of perspective and when done on a regular basis, can restore your outlook on life in many important ways.
What about if you live in a city? Well, for me (now living in downtown San Francisco), finding just one spot that I can go to is all I need. I retreat to my (tiny) back yard and sit on a wicker chair. I close my eyes, bask in the loving energy that the sun radiates down to us and practice deep breathing. Being aware of all that is around me and of my place in the macrocosm of the Universe, I am able to process my emotions, feelings and experiences in a healthy and healing way.
So try it out. It may just be a walk around your block while you notice little flowers by the curb. Or it may be to sit in your favorite park, or the garden of your local house of worship. Even practicing this exercise while waiting on a busy street for the bus can be extremely beneficial, as the incredible gift of our planet is always and forever surrounding us with love and care.
[incredible photo of Oregon from Bliss Blog ]