“One touch of nature makes the whole world kin.” – William Shakespeare
Has stress ever taken over your life? Have you ever felt a behemoth ball of lead weighing down your shoulders because your daily planner is so full?
Stress is an energy vampire that can suck the lifeblood out of the most Zen of people.
Often we don’t just have stressful days, we endure stressful weeks and months that over time take its toll on our health.
In fact, research indicates that seven out of ten Americans suffer physical symptoms of stress overload.
So how do we ease stress?
A multi-million dollar industry has appeared peddling both natural and unnatural ways to zap our stress.
Savvy marketers have learned that the words: “Reduce Stress Instantly!” sells.
But what if there were a no-cost way to ease stress that didn’t require subscription drugs or the sound of chanting monks?
There is, so read on…
I usually de-stress the natural way through yoga and meditation, but sometimes stress can be so all-consuming that ditching it the New Agey way just ‘aint happening.
Quick digression: I don’t like the term “New Age.” Most things that are considered “New Age” are really ancient wisdom and practices, so it should be called, “Old Age.”
Before I reveal this non-New Agey technique for easing stress, let me tell you about a gaggle of geese.
Several months ago, I started jogging along a water canal near the town in Belgium where I live. For most of the summer, a small gaggle of geese made their home in the canal on my jogging route.
I loved watching the birds as I ran by. I would find them either pecking for food, floating serenely in the water, or standing around honking.
I’ve always been fond of geese. They are intrepid travelers, mate for life, and make nests from their own feathers.
Geese also remind me of when I was a child – watching them fly overhead in their V-shaped formation – which meant summer was near.
So, I adopted the gaggle of geese along the canal.
In time, I realized that my stress levels went down to zero when I encountered the birds.
Then I noticed every time I was outdoors away from any sort of modern technology, my stress levels started to go down instantly, which brings me to the point of this blog post.
If you want an instant, all-natural way to ease stress without a case of beer, a box of Xanax, or a yoga mat then go outside and CONNECT WITH NATURE.
As humans spend more time indoors in front of TVs and computer screens and less time outdoors, health experts say this is contributing to higher levels of stress.
Best-selling author Richard Louv has coined the phrase, “Nature Deficit Disorder,” to describe the loss of connection humans are feeling with the natural world.
Louv argues that nature-deficit disorder affects “health, spiritual well-being, and many other areas, including [people’s] ability to feel ultimately alive.”
This has affected children most acutely. With increased technology and indoor media options, many activities for children have moved indoors.
According to the National Wildlife Federation, American children in 2012 had on average only four to seven minutes of unstructured outdoor play per day. A poll conducted in the UK in 2013 found that children spend on average ten times more time watching TV or on the computer than playing outside.
My gaggle of geese served as a motivator to get me outdoors, even when I was tired and didn’t feel like it. The birds lured me out of my indoor routine, and the mere sight of them instantly calmed any frayed nerves and boosted my spirit.
Here are 5 tips to help you connect with nature and ease stress:
1. Find your spot.
Maybe it’s your backyard, a nearby park, a forest, or a hiking trail. Find a spot in nature that is easy for you to get to and make it your spot.
2. Commit to going to your spot once per day for four days.
Best-selling author and life coach Martha Beck teaches in her book, “The Four-Day Win,” that in completing any task four days in a row a routine starts to form. By visiting your spot four days in a row you’ll start to build up a connection and a routine.
Note: Allowing a routine to form is different than a habit. Most expert say that is takes roughly 21 days to form a new habit, but the first four days are the most critical.
3. Pick one thing at your spot.
Pick an animal, tree, or group of wild flowers to connect with specifically. In my case it was my gaggle. But realize that nature is a continuously evolving. The weather is getting cooler, so my gaggle have moved on and now my thing is a small herd of dairy cows.
4. Make it your time.
Decide what time of the day or week you’ll visit your spot and make it your time. You can spend it with someone you love, but make sure you carve out a bit of time for silence so you don’t have the distraction of conversation.
5. Be in the present moment.
Focusing on nature is a great way to be in the present moment. If a stressful thought comes to mind, just thank it, allow it to melt away, and return to the birds and trees.
When you make connecting with nature part of your weekly routine, you’re building an all-natural stress-reducing mechanism into your day. It doesn’t take an ounce of mental energy, all it requires is your intention to make it happen.
As I write this post it’s a delicious, sunny day, which means it’s time for me to close my laptop and go outside.
Do you have a spot in nature? If so, describe it. How has connecting to nature alleviated stress in your life? What other techniques do you use? Post your thoughts below.