With the COVID-19 pandemic, my daily life has changed as I once knew it. More than ever, it’s important not to lose sight of those things that can bring us enjoyment, promote resilience and provide a sense of normality. Remaining connected with nature can do all that.
Another West Coast winter is about to conclude and Mother Nature is busy changing seasons. Spring in the Northern Hemisphere begins March 20, 2020. It’s the season that symbolizes growth, renewal, rebirth, and so much more. Leaves are budding, flowers are blooming, and birds are chattering. The weather is getting warmer, and hours of daylight will continue to increase. Seeds take root and vegetation begins to grow. Animals wake or return, often with newborns. Spring truly does bring with it a breath of fresh air, and countless examples of ongoing change around us.
During these extraordinary times, how will you give yourself the time to enjoy spring?
For me, the calling to spend more time outside becomes stronger during spring. Everything in nature is changing and I don’t want to miss a moment of it. At least several times a day, I try to mindfully connect with nature. I stop, take a breath, notice and listen to the nature around me. I take a few moments to look up at the sky and really notice what’s above me. I look for the tops of trees, hills, and mountains. Trees particularly captivate my attention with all their uniqueness and magnificence. Trees stand still for years, and occasionally hundreds of years if they are lucky. They penetrate the ground with roots, and connect with the earth’s atmosphere through their trunk, branches and leaves. Everything about a standing tree is about being connected with what’s around them.
Here’s a simple mindfulness exercise for you to try next time you are out in nature. It’s called STOP.
- “S” is for stop the next time you are in the forest, in a green space with trees, or in front of a window with a view of trees.
- “T” is for take a moment to experience a mindful breath cycle, noticing your in-breath followed by your out-breath.
- “O” is for open your palms to the sky and extend your arms out in various positions, like branches and leaves do. Be open, receptive, patient, and mindful of your breathing as you do.
- “P” is for proceed mindfully on your walk or whatever you were doing before, opening your senses to whatever naturally attracts them.
During this time when social distancing is strongly encouraged to help slow the spread of COVID-19, self-care and people-care are critical now. If you know of anyone that may be impacted by the potential spread of COVID-19 and have had to self-quarantine themselves,
- keep in touch with them through voice and video calls. It’s most likely going to be a very stressful, long waiting period for them.
- encourage healthy coping strategies such as eating healthy foods, staying hydrated, and resting so natural immunity has what it needs to do its job.
- offer to pick up food and household supplies for them, and then leave it outside their door along with a get well message, potted plant or vase of flowers to help lift mood.
- encourage them to stay active in their space (health permitting) by suggesting lower effort activities like house cleaning, reorganizing, gentle home exercise routines, catching up on reading, journaling, starting an online course, creative activities, etc. These can help keep both the body and mind active, as well as provide a sense of productiveness and control.
- and encourage them to continue connecting with nature daily. There are ways other than being outside to connect with nature like spending time looking out a window with a view of nature, or giving house plants a little extra TLC, or watching nature themed programs on Netflix.
Social distancing has temporarily halted the Horticultural Therapy sessions I offer but I’m still making time to go outside each day to garden and go for a walk so that I can remain connected with nature and experience its many health benefits. I’m looking forward to working with Stanley Park Ecology Society (SPES) once their programming resumes to begin offering sessions the public can register for. I love leading nature walks and found this CBC short film very inspirational.
Wellness to you all, and remember, when connecting with nature at any time of the year, allow yourself the time to EXPLORE, DISCOVER and STIMULATE YOUR SENSES.