Thus far, in Stress Awareness Month, we’ve looked at how we can use movement to combat the effects of stress, how we can use the breath to bring us back to calm, and how our morning routines can set us up for a stress-free day. This week, we’re connecting to nature for stress relief with a walking meditation.
Research has shown that our environment can increase or decrease our stress, which, as we know, greatly impacts our bodies and minds.
This seems pretty intuitive, right? If you’re in a loud and crowded hallway, with people shouting and running around, you’re going to feel a certain way. Contrast that with being on a secluded beach, with the sounds of gentle waves lapping at the shore. You’re going to feel very different.
Everything we see, hear, and experience at any given moment can affect our mood, as well as how our endocrine and immune systems work.
We can’t always control our surroundings. Heck, we can’t control our surroundings most of the time! But we can control how we respond to our surroundings.
The goal is to respond to that noisy, chaotic hallway the same way we would respond to the calm beach. Or as close to the same way as we can manage. Responding to stressful environments the same way that we respond to calm environments allows us to keep our stress levels low, even in the midst of stressful situations.
Of course, this does not come easy – it requires practice. One way to do so is to practice mindfulness and awareness in calm environments. One such environment is out in nature.
A number of studies have shown that visiting green spaces and being exposed to natural environments can reduce psychological stress. So spending time out in nature (like that beach) can help to reduce our stress levels.
Now, you might be thinking, “sure, being in nature reduces stress, but I can’t be out in nature all the time!”. I hear you, my friend.
My invitation to you is twofold: 1. Carve out some time to spend in nature, so you get those stress-reducing benefits. And 2. While you’re out there, practice some mindfulness meditation so you can come back to that feeling of being in nature, when you’re going about your day-to-day life.
To help you in this endeavor is today’s meditation practice – a walking meditation to help you reconnect to nature. You don’t need to head out to the woods for this practice (though if you can, totally do that!), just find an outdoor space with some plants and/or trees and enough room for you to walk in.
Tune in to everything you experience during this walking meditation, and the next time you’re walking down a busy, chaotic city street, see if you can dip back into this space.
I’ll meet you on the road 😉