Sunday, June 25, 2017

Weekly Inspiration: The Restorative Power of Nature

My husband and I have just returned from a week-long vacation in Vermont with our camper (hence the lack of recent blog posts!). It occurs to me - again - after spending a week mostly outdoors just how restorative and rejuvenating nature is. You can see more of my photos of the beauty of Vermont's natural areas here (or read about the VT bookstores and restaurants we enjoyed!).

Spending a week living in our camper in state parks, surrounded by forests and trees, lakes and streams, sunshine and blue sky, is a centering experience for me. It brings me back to my essential self. Although I try to get outside most days, my life is filled with obligations toward kids and other family, my home, my work, and even my blogs. I spend an enormous amount of time on my laptop, and when I leave the house, it is usually to run all over town doing errands or racing to get my father-in-law to a doctor's appointment or some other urgent matter. When we are camping, there is no internet, no electronics of any sort (we do bring our cell phones in case of emergency but we don't have smart phones), no obligations, and no to-do list taunting me!
Enjoying the outdoors at Emerald Lake State Park in Vermont
More important, though, I have come to understand, is not just the vacation from my usual life but the opportunity to spend so much time outdoors. Throughout the week, I can feel my levels of stress drop as I relax and adjust to the outdoor life.

It turns out I'm not the only one who thinks this way. Lots of research has been done on the effects of nature on people, much of which Florence Williams describes eloquently in this brief TED Talk:

She cites studies that have found that time in nature - even as little as 1 minute! - reduces stress, improves creativity, reduces self-criticism, and increases kindness. Spending time in nature has very real physical effects on us humans, including improving our immune function, as measured by Natural Killer cell function - something everyone with ME/CFS certainly needs! Williams also describes various projects being undertaken around the world to make nature more available and accessible, even to city dwellers - there's some pretty cool stuff going on! South Korea is even creating "healing forests" across the nation, where people can enjoy the healing effects of nature, both by themselves and in guided activities.

Back home, I have a long-standing goal to spend at least 10 minutes a day outdoors. That may not sound like much, but the research says it helps....all I know is that I feel better when I connect with the outdoor world each day. Today, I took a short walk around my neighborhood and am now writing this out on my back deck, lying in my favorite comfy bungee chair, looking up at the sky, feeling the breeze, and listening to the birds in the trees.
My favorite outdoor spot at home on our back deck

Try it yourself! Make time each day to get outside, even if it's just out to your own backyard or deck or patio for a few minutes. Lie down in a hammock or reclining chair. Leave the electronics inside and tune in to the sights, sounds, smells, and feelings of being outdoors - you'll be amazed at what you notice!

I wrote another post about nature, based on the inspiring words of Anne Frank, an older post on The Joy of the Outdoors, and a recent post about exactly HOW people with chronic illness can manage to enjoy camping and the outdoors, based on our own experiences.

How do YOU enjoy the outdoors? What positive effects have you noticed from being in nature?


Claire(PainPalsBlog) said...

Hi, Great post - I have posted link on PainPalsBlog regular feature Monday Magic – Inspiring Blogs for You!Claire x

Unknown said...

Really nice article. As a fellow me/CFS patient I too have great affection for nature. As luck would have it I recently moved to a house that is situated beside the Dublin mountains which is a really stunning labdscape. When I'm well enough to venture out it is a transformative experience for me to spend time in the vast natural beauty around me and fills me with hope and peace of mind.

Marya said...

Getting outside is so therapeutic but a challenge during the hot Florida summer.

Sue Jackson said...

Thanks for including my post, Claire - I love your Monday Magic feature!

Sue Jackson said...

That sounds like such a beautiful place to live, Daniel! I would love to visit Ireland one day.

Wonderful that you are able to get out and enjoy nature sometimes - so glad that you get the same kind of rejuvenation from it that I do.


Sue Jackson said...

Yes! I have become very heat-intolerant since ME/CFS, Marya, so I completely understand. Florida in the summer would be really hard to deal with, for sure. Here in Delaware we get days in the high 90's with high humidity, too, and I tend to stay inside on those days!

I hope you can at least get out sometimes in the shade in the cooler mornings or evenings -


Unknown said...

Thanks sue and it is something I finally am able to enjoy also. Before I would be too restless and unable to be in the moment. I also never really appreciated this kind of thing, too distracted by a kind of selfish, party- goer lifestyle which in hindsight never made me happy but also I never managed to separate myself from.

So now that I've been forced to choose my activities wisely I've gained a great insight into what is important for me and what is truly special in this world. It is definitely a positive aspect I can point to whilst having to go through this hardship.

Sue Jackson said...

I feel the same way, Daniel! It's a silver lining to this horrible illness - it definitely helps you realize what's REALLY important in life. It has helped me focus in on small things that bring me being outdoors! So glad you have experienced these important lessons, too.