A Healing Message from Nature
Spending time in nature offers many health benefits. It reduces your amount of stress hormones, bathes you in sunlight that raises your vitamin D levels, and seems to reduce the risk of developing nearsightedness. Some physicians are even prescribing nature walks for their patients, as a USA Today article points out.
Nature seems to recalibrate us, bringing us back to the rhythm and flow of our bodies’ natural home outdoors. When was the last time you were in nature and felt any anxiety or irritability easily leave your body and your energy field? Just a few minutes spent in nature turns on the parasympathetic nervous system, which counteracts the physical experience of stress. Exercise can do the same, which is why getting out into nature for a walk actually supports your body in recovering from everyday stressors. Intuitively, you may know this, but do you make the time to get outside and exercise?
Taking a little time to observe why you are not getting outdoors into nature more often might help you to realize your obstacles aren’t so daunting after all. You might simply be forgetting how good you feel when you stroll by the shore of a lake or through a forest. You might not be prioritizing your wellness and well-being, feeling that work or chores ought to take precedence. Perhaps you need to make a point of scheduling time for being out in nature, moving naturally, and enjoying a little solitude.
The next time you take a nature walk by yourself, stop for a few minutes to tune in to your body and its surroundings. Pause and focus on the sensations of sitting or standing on dirt, grass, sand, or rock. Notice whether you feel relaxed, and what mood you are in. Then, you might simply pose a question to your natural surroundings, perhaps to the breeze that is blowing or the earth that supports your feet, or to a lake as you stand on its shore. Silently or aloud, ask, “What message do you have for me?” Pay attention to what you feel and experience, whether it’s an image that comes to mind or a thought. Nature may have something to tell you about what you need to do for yourself, or what you need to stop doing, to experience healing, replenishment, or rejuvenation. It may remind you of something uncomfortable that you’ve pushed aside, such as your need to grieve a loss or take time for self-care.
Some might say the message you receive when you engage in this practice is a message from your unconscious mind to your conscious mind. Others say that the collective unconscious we all share is the source of this wisdom that comes into your consciousness. Maybe it is nature answering your question. Whatever you believe, the simple act of immersing yourself in the experience of being in a natural space outdoors and asking “What message do you have for me?” could help you gain insights that can help you in your everyday life. Ponder the message after you have received it, and act upon any insights you have gained. In this way, nature can be healing not just for your body but for your emotional self and even your spirit. So take a little time to enjoy walking outdoors and open up to receiving a healing message from nature.
(You can learn more about working with nature’s healing powers in my book Change the Story of Your Health.)
Carl Greer, PhD, PsyD, is a retired clinical psychologist and Jungian analyst, a businessman, and a shamanic practitioner, author, and philanthropist funding over 60 charities and more than 850 past and current Greer Scholars. He has taught at the C.G. Jung Institute of Chicago and been on staff at the Replogle Center for Counseling and Well-Being.