4th March, 2023
There is just something so empowering about spending time in nature. Taking a stroll through the woods and listening to the birds singing and the trees whispering, glimpsing a deer bounding gracefully across fallen branches or a hedgehog snuffling through the undergrowth, smelling the dew on the bluebells just poking out amongst the leaves waving hello to spring, feeling the fresh air kiss my cheeks. It awakens all of my senses and leaves me feeling invigorated, yet calm.
But don’t just take my word for it, there is now a growing body of empirical evidence that suggests that nature has benefits for psychological and physical well-being. It has been reported that spending time in nature can improve attention, lower stress levels, boost mood and can even enhance cooperation and empathy.
In a recent study conducted in Australia, researchers asked two groups of students to participate in two dull, attention draining tasks which involved them pressing a button when certain numbers appeared on a computer screen. Both groups were given a 40 second break between the two tasks. During the break one group got to look at a living roof covered in grass and flowers, while the other group looked at a plain concrete roof. The results showed that the group who looked at the living roof during the break made significantly less mistakes in the second task than the group who looked at the concrete one (Journal of Environmental Psychology).
These are fascinating findings, although would probably come as no surprise to our learned ancestors. From little steps like introducing more plants to our homes or exploring our local woodland, spending time in and around nature can improve our mental and physical wellbeing. But we live in a society that does not promote an active lifestyle nor does it embrace the great outdoors! Leaving many of us at times feeling stressed and drained.
Mindfulness has gained in popularity in recent years as a strategy for enhancing wellbeing. It allows us to be fully present and become aware of where we are and what we are doing, without being overly reactive to our thoughts and emotions. Indeed, there are an increasing number of studies that suggest that by slowing down and being more present, we can help alleviate feelings of stress and anxiety.
The Woods at Oakley have teamed up with Salisbury Hypnotherapy to offer a bluebell meditation this spring. Through a guided mindfulness practice we will be utilising the healing power of nature to awaken our senses and help us reconnect. In the language of flowers, the bluebell is a symbol of humility, gratitude and everlasting love. These are values that we will explore in our practice to help boost our wellbeing and remind ourselves of the importance of self-care.
Humility is one of the most powerful attributes of growth. Being humble does not mean having a poor opinion of yourself, but rather accepting who you are and embracing your good qualities and your faults, without judgment. But also recognizing that other people have qualities and faults, and both are equally valuable. The guiding principle of mindfulness is accepting what is’ rather than judging and commenting on it.
Gratitude is a fundamental characteristic of wellbeing, being grateful actually makes you happier! Focusing on being present in the moment, noticing the small things and counting your blessings can improve your health, help you feel more positive emotions and build stronger relationships. But we so often overlook the positives, we glance over the wonderful little experiences we have on a daily basis and we forget to look at the bigger picture. Instead we notice the little annoyances, we dwell on one bad experience rather than putting it into perspective. But the good news is that we can train our mind to acknowledge these positive moments and to use them to boost our wellbeing. We need to remember to be grateful for what we have, rather than procrastinate on what we do not have.
Love for yourself, for others, for the natural world is a powerful emotion. We have all loved and lost love at some point in our lives, but the source of love that should always remain constant in our life is the love we have for ourselves. But the kindness and compassion that we give to others is often not given to ourselves and it is our biggest threat to our wellbeing.
So, join us on Saturday 22nd April from 1-3pm for a bluebell meditation in the Woods at Oakley, where we will harness the healing power of nature to boost our wellbeing, encouraging us to feel grateful, humble and loved. The cost is £25, if you would like to book a place or need further information please email [email protected] or phone Lucy on 07738 627369.
Delighted to have been featured in an article in the Salisbury Journal; Meditation event at the Woods at Oakley