The Value of Nature
Seasons in Illinois are distinct and each offer space for something new – summer sun, falling leaves, snow days, and spring showers. The seasons can have a significant impact on our mood and ability to cope and care for ourselves. Some of us may prefer long heat filled days, while others can’t wait for a blanket of snow. As we move toward the end of summer and on to cooler nights, it can be helpful to connect with what nature has to offer and the value it brings to our lives. There is growing evidence that time with nature improves mood, enhances overall wellness, and decreases stress. Below are ideas for how to appreciate and spend time with nature in any season.
Slow the pace – One of the first and most important steps in increasing our connection with nature is to slow down. Often, life has so many distractions that we miss what is right in front of us. Slowing down can mean taking a deep breath, allowing yourself to take a break, stepping away from technology, or practicing meditation.
Ground yourself – Grounding is a practice of calming and reconnecting, often through using our senses. One of the most common grounding techniques is called 5-4-3-2-1. In this technique, you are encouraged to identify 5 things you see, 4 things you feel, 3 things you hear, 2 things you smell, and one thing you taste. Nature offers endless opportunities to practice grounding and bring us into the present just by noticing what is around us.
Get outside – Being outdoors is probably the most effective way to connect with nature and thankfully you do not have to plan an outdoor adventure for it to be beneficial. Studies have shown that just 15 minutes a day or two hours a week outdoors can improve mood. Any time we spend outdoors tends to have benefit, whether you enjoy finding a comfortable spot to sit, going swimming, or playing in the snow. Make getting outside a priority in ways that work for you.
Allow nature in – Due to work, weather, accessibility or a variety of other reasons, we may not always be able to get outside. Fortunately, that does not mean we can’t benefit from nature. Exposure to nature, even through images and videos, has been found to have a positive impact on mood. Strategies to bring the outdoors in can include opening your windows to soak up sunshine and appreciate the view, adding potted plants to your indoor space, hanging pictures of nature scenes or watching programs about the wonder of the great outdoors.
Focus on the small things – While there are seasons that allow us to enjoy our natural surroundings with ease, it can be more difficult to connect to nature in others. This is when focusing on the small things becomes essential. For example, buy yourself flowers in the cold of February, make a cool salad in the heat of August, practice gratitude for the April rain, and enjoy the changing colors of the Illinois fall.
– Holly Cañas, L.C.S.W