The modern world is full of great technologies that save us time and reduce the physical demands of just about any task. But along with these savings comes an unspoken expectation that things will get done more quickly, and that each of us will be able to do more in a shorter period of time. Add on a huge dose of competitiveness for jobs, housing, and just about anything else you can think of, and the result is that a lot of us have less time experiencing a sense of peace and more time trying to keep up with the demands of life. This has had a negative effect on many people’s outlook. Three out of four of us describe the workplace as stressful. And for those under 18, the percentage soars to 85% who feel under stress. But take heart, help is here!
If you’re depressed, stressed out, anxious, or fatigued, the cure might be right outside your door. New research from Holland shows that people who live near a park or wooded area experience less depression and anxiety. And a study from the UK found that a walk in the country reduced depression in 71% of participants. Scientists have long known that sunlight can ease depression – especially in winter.
When you tap into the regenerative power of your environment, it can have instant and profound effects on your mood, transforming negative emotions such as fear, depression, anger, and anxiety into a peaceful, happy state of mind. Just about every single person has gone for a walk at some point in their life. Have you? How did you feel when you finished? Probably much better than when you started!
Walking is an ancient tool of transformation. And the great thing is that you don’t have to specifically be in the wilderness or even a park, for walking to work its wonders on your mood. Even in the middle of a city, if you go outside and walk for a few minutes with the intent of disconnecting from whatever may be causing you stress or anxiety, those precious moments afford you the chance to feel the sunlight on your skin, to breathe in air that has not passed through an air conditioning system, and to feel your feet walking on Mother Earth. These three things will transform your mood naturally and almost instantaneously, just as it did for our ancestors thousands of years ago.
Of course, if you do have access to a natural setting, the effects are enhanced and can improve more than just your mood. Research has shown a number of great positives to spending time in nature. Children who are allowed to have unstructured play in nature, for example, develop an improved ability to focus on school tasks later. They also show a higher level of creativity than those who don’t spend time doing this in their early years. It has also been shown that walking on uneven ground raises intelligence. The mechanism is thought to be from an increase in pathway development between the various parts of the brain that are stimulated by having to stay upright on uneven ground. So if you want to be smarter, walk in nature!
But let’s get back to how profoundly positive even a small dose of time spent walking and being in an outdoor environment can be for your mood. Often because of tight scheduling and a job that keeps us mostly indoors, a lot of people in the modern world are actually ‘nature deficient’. This is because we are all designed to thrive in the outside world. Here is how it works. Our ancient genetics are set up to give us a positive mood when we move. The only time our ancient ancestors were sedentary for any length of time was when food was scarce; it was an advantage to not move around much. The adaptation that we all have in common to this scenario is that it causes a bit of depression. Depression is actually a survival mechanism. As we know, this mood gives us a feeling like being out of gas and being unmotivated to do much, which in ancient times conserved calories during the parts of the year when food was scarce. Walking and moving were signs that there was likely something to find to eat – and along with that came a positive outlook. We can get our ancient genetics to do their job to bring us a positive outlook simply by exercising, and when we do that in nature, it’s a double shot of espresso – courtesy of the inherent energy and power in the outside world.
We say that Mother Earth is always emitting love, which in the Huichol tradition (an indigenous tribe in central Mexico) is the strongest power of all. By walking outside on the earth, we absorb this power and it strengthens our bodies, our souls, and improves our mood naturally. You can activate this same sense of well-being anywhere outside. It could be by simply sitting next to a creek or the ocean and listening to the sounds of the water. It could be by watching a sunrise or a sunset and breathing the colours of the sky into your heart. This inherently makes us feel part of something bigger than just ourselves, part of something grand that has gone on for millennia.
One of the nine keys we write about in our book is Honour Yourself. Part of what this requires is that each of us takes the time to shift our moods using these simple tools. We honour ourselves by going outside when we feel the shift in stress go from manageable to unmanageable and just walk for a few minutes or sit quietly in a park or garden. Honouring yourself says, “I am not my bad mood or my anxiety.” It’s a statement recognizing that, deep inside, you have love for yourself, for life, and for others, and you will make the time each and every day to bring yourself back to this memory. The simplest and quickest way that we have personally found to do this is to boost our mood with nature.
When you tap into the regenerative power of your environment, it can have instant and profound effects on your mood, transforming negative emotions such as fear, depression, anger, and anxiety into a peaceful, happy state of mind. Try these techniques:
See the Big Picture
To bring fear or worry into perspective, focus on a positive event in nature that will continue whether you face your fear or not. Recall the colours of the last sunrise you saw, or think of the present season and its inevitable progression into the next one. You’ll see that such large events continue – whether you and your fears are there or not.
Embrace the Darkness
At night, find a place in nature where you’re not surrounded by things manmade and the only light is the stars. Get enveloped in the welcome darkness, listen to the sounds of nature, and connect to your world.
Get Lit Up
Set your alarm in time to get outside when it’s still dark. As the sun is rising, concentrate on the dawning light. The sun’s rays transform the darkness of night into the brilliance of day. It will brighten your mood naturally too.
Get ‘Soleful’ Love
As we have emphasized take a walk outside – someplace where you feel peaceful. Put one foot in front of the other slowly, and quiet your internal chatter. With each step, visualize the earth’s love coming into your body through your feet and dissolving any problems you have.
Centre Yourself between Earth and Sky
Sit or lie on the ground outside. Visualize the light of the sun entering the top of your head, filling your heart and body, and then going down into the earth. Feel the earth beneath you, and draw the love of the earth up into your heart and body, and then send it up to the sun. Feel your connection to all life.
Invoke the Deer Spirit
The Huichols use the image of the deer to represent innocence, gentleness, and clarity. To melt away emotional stress, visualize the image of a deer surrounded by a circle. Ask the deer, out loud or to yourself, to help you find harmony and balance, and help you to stand tall like a tree.
Fight Negativity with Fire
Transform negative emotions such as fear, anger, and jealousy by sitting before a fire outside or a candle inside and looking at the flame. Imagine your heart opening like a flower and see yourself breathing in the fire’s light. Do this for about 5 minutes. This technique also gives immediate relief to the part of your body that’s holding the emotion (e.g., your stomach).
Reposted from positivehealth.com