The smell in the air, the warmth on your face, the birds chirping or the tinkle of water running as it melts from snow. What about that burst of fresh air on every inch of your body after hours on an airplane? Is either scenario familiar? There is nothing more invigorating than the natural world around us – the one that encompasses our every being and is simply taken for granted.
How much time each day do you spend enjoying the nature around you? Regardless of where in the world you live, how hot or cold, humid or dry the climate may be... How much time each day do you place yourself in it? Nature is a constant, in the fact that you have absolutely no control over it... Absolutely none! There is not a thing you can do about the environment around you, except of course to move; but my point is that there is a factor in your life that you cannot control. How very freeing is that! Embrace this; harness the feeling of being free of decisions and responsibilities – if only for a moment and place yourself in nature.
In our profession, we spend our days taking care of others. This is not a bad thing! Obviously we love it or we would not have chosen to do it; but so very often we get caught up in what we do and our many daily responsibilities that we lose touch with what is at our fingertips. Open your door, step outside and breathe. The beauty of your environment is absolutely free; it costs you nothing but a few minutes of your time and is not for anybody else, except for you.
I remember when I was a child (and not that I want to date myself), time in front of a television or computer was non-existent. Any free time was spent outside riding bicycles, running between houses and playing hide and seek using the entire neighborhood! I know most of you can relate. As time has passed, our entire society has changed. Not only do our children spend endless hours in front of the television and computer but so do we! Imagine if just for one weekend you did not permit anyone in your house (including yourself) to use electronics… to turn on the television or the computer. And yes, this includes your iPad and telephone! What would you do? You could go for a walk, toss a ball in the yard, read a book on the deck, weed the garden, plant a few flowers, or simply smell the roses. The list could go on, but those are just a few of my favorites. What are yours?
Research studies have shown an amazing direct link between exposure and time spent in nature to a multitude of health benefits: physical, emotional and psychological. Not only do these studies show that nature and nature experiences are both desirable and healthy; but that their impact is universal. Studies have shown that exposure to nature reduces stress, relieves mental fatigue, improves mental health, increases an individual's belief in self-esteem, control over factors within one's life, self-commitment and ability to take on challenges. These factors have been shown to be applicable to both adults and children.
Nature has also been shown to improve job performance, job satisfaction and even speed recovery following a surgery!
If you will recall from last month's column, I talked about the importance of exercise and its positive impact on so many aspects, including your work and your personal lives. Interestingly enough, research has certainly supports this, but also shows that outdoor exercise has an even greater effect than indoor exercise!
The Plan: Appreciation
Appreciating nature and experiencing its many benefits does not take any time, it just takes attention. It is time to start your new journey with nature. Here is the plan. Tomorrow morning when you slap off that alarm, do not hit snooze. Turn off the alarm, sit up in bed, and look out your window. What do you see? What color is the sky? Is it windy? Is it snowing, raining or sunny? Talk to yourself about what could be beautiful about any one of those scenarios. Can you hear anything outside? Even with the windows closed, you can often hear the slight chirping of a bird, the whistling of the wind, or traffic on the street. What is beautiful about each of these?
As you leave the house and head to the car, take a moment and become aware of the nature around you. Smell the air, feel the air. Is it warm, cool, or downright cold? Feel the breeze against your skin, the wind whip across you face, or the just the still of calm air.
Does the air smell of winter or spring? Now think about that question for a minute… How do you describe what a season smells like? It is an interesting question, but you all know exactly what I mean.
What do you hear now that you have stepped form your house into the outdoors?
Repeat this exercise everywhere you go: as you are walking in to work, waiting for your clients, picking the kids up from school, going to the grocery store, and ending your day. Pay attention to all of the little things around you and make a note about what is so beautiful about them. Do you know what is beautiful about them? YOU! You are an integral part of them – it is your nature; it is your natural surroundings that wrap their arms around you every minute of every day. Right at your fingertips, or just outside the door, is a completely no-charge solution to a happier, healthier you. Take it a step further and turn off that television and that computer. For just one moment become one with nature and take it all in!
I challenge you to something new, get outside, take some time for yourself and stop to smell the roses.