These dark, dreary days of Fall are hanging heavy on me these days. Perhaps it is the low, grey clouds that won’t leave, or maybe it is the general lack of sunshine. Either way, I find myself restless, unmotivated, and feeling dull this time of year. Thankfully, if I can just drag myself outside for even five minutes, my brain feels brighter, I am more awake, and I am feel happier! This is something I have learned on my own, but there is actually science behind why this happens.
Your Brain on Fresh Air
“Scientists are beginning to find evidence that being in nature has a profound impact on our brains and our behavior, helping us to reduce anxiety, brooding, and stress, and increase our attention capacity, creativity, and our ability to connect with other people.”
I already know that I felt better by going outside, but I had no idea it could actually make me kinder or more creative. Maybe I need to get outside more then; I will be the nicest person around! (ha ha).
It doesn’t take a long time to feel the benefits of nature in your brain and body, and if you want to capitalize on the short time you spend outside this time of year, make sure you use all of your senses! Unless it is literally raining sideways (which it does here on the West Coast pretty often), I will sometimes park further away from my destination to simply be outside for a few extra minutes. Even a walk through the parking lot can help lift my spirits if I am paying attention.
Use Your Senses & Get the Most Out of Nature
Breathe deeply, and notice what the air smells and feels like. Is it damp? Cold? Can you smell freshly cut grass, or identify which flowers might be blooming? Even in the city, each day smells different depending on the time of year.
Is there a taste of anything in the air? Breathe through your mouth, and you might taste the salt if you are near the ocean, or the dampness of fog, or the heat on a summer day. For me, in the BC Interior, a hot day tastes dry and slightly of sage; near the Pacific Ocean, it tastes damp and salty. What does heat taste like where you live?
Take notice of what is different today; seasons aren’t as sneaky as we think they are, and there are little details that change from day to day. Are there bugs on the bushes? What shapes are the clouds? How do the leaves look today?
Listen for the birds, the wind, the crunching of the leaves under your feet, or the dripping of the rain from the trees. What about the sound the car tires make through puddles? Does snow have a sound?
Feel the sun, the wind (or lack thereof) on your face. Crunch a leaf in your hand, or pick the petals off a flower. Bend over, and pick up a stone, a stick or a bug; what does it feel like? (don’t squish the bug!)
Being present is the ultimate key in enjoying all of nature’s benefits. Whether you are in a park, on your street, outside your office, or simply rushing through the parking lot in the rain, you can connect to nature by simply being there, and looking (or breathing, touching, hearing or feeling) for it.
It can be hard to slow down and notice the little things, but if it only takes five minutes to feel better, I think I can do it. After all, it is the small moments throughout the day that add up to so much more.
Do you have a special routine or habit that connects you to nature?
“ How Nature Can Make You Kinder, Happier, and More Creative” Jill Suttie https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/how_nature_makes_you_kinder_happier_more_creative