Nature and Wellbeing
I’ve always loved being out in nature. There’s something very calming about the feel of the sun on my face or the wind in my hair. Mind you, it’s not always easy to get out - a lot of the time, it’s easier to find other things to do.
We have to make time for ourselves out in nature. It’s not frivolous, it’s good for our wellbeing. I didn’t actually realise what a difference it made to me until I lost it. For a long time I worked with vulnerable kids with behavioural difficulties. We spent a lot of time outside, often more than we did inside, regardless of the weather. We built dens, we walked, we explored, we planted and grew, and looked after our chickens. The group I worked with were lucky enough to have been donated a small patch of land which we referred to as our farm. It was only when I left that job and the outdoor work that I took for granted, that I realised how much time you can spend indoors when doing a desk job. It’s very different.
I think running fitted in where I left off with the outdoor stuff. I’d always liked walking, but running pushed it to a new level, it helped me explore and see so many different things in one short trip. I didn’t mind the wet or the cold, even the wind. Instead, it just made me feel alive. I felt like I was achieving something and afterwards I felt great. It extends further than that though, I mean, I have never felt more at home than camping in Scotland or being out at sea. I like the elements. One of my favourite things is a swim in the sea, once I’ve got over the initial shock of the cold of course. The only way I can explain it is that the cold takes your breath away and reminds you how alive you are. At least that’s how it works for me.
I spend a lot of time outdoors, but more recently, I’ve been bringing the outdoors in too. It’s hard, because I’m not ever so good at keeping house plants alive. I like them, but they don’t seem to like me! Lee has green fingers and we have a conservatory full of lemons, limes and oranges which are growing well and producing fruit, but I had to return an orchid my Mum gave me, for her to nurse it back to health as I nearly killed it. So, I’m careful about what I introduce. I buy things I like, but aren’t too difficult to keep. It seems to be going all right at the moment.
I’ve been following a florist on Instagram for ages. They post beautiful pictures online of bouquets as well as houseplants, and so the other day I decided to pop in. I came away with a little hanging plant which is the first one I’ve placed in our bedroom. I haven’t had plants in a bedroom since I was a teenager, but it’s funny how much difference it’s seems to have made already. Not only is it pleasant to look at, but it just makes the room feel nice too.
I decided to look a little more into it and found that plants absorb carbon dioxide and release oxygen, which means they make a healthier environment for us to live in. Not only that, but they collect dust, which means although we have to occasionally dust them off, the dust is kept isolated in one place, stopping us from breathing it in. A lot of plants act as natural humidifiers, relieving respiratory problems as well as coughs and some conditions where skin dryness occurs. Especially in sealed environments like offices and flats and apartments, there is evidence to show that plants help to purify the air, again making it a nicer environment to live in. Research has been done into the effects of houseplants on the body’s reaction to stress, finding that we have an innate reaction to plants and trees providing us with shelter, which we have gained from our ancient ancestors. So when we are around certain plants, there is a recognition that we are protected to a certain extent. Psychologists say that the colour green is associated with health and vitality, so when we see it it promotes our wellbeing.
Plants also take our attention without stimulating our minds, giving us a welcome break from screens which actually helps us focus. Plants trigger our nurturing instincts too, by reminding us that we are alive and a part of a wider eco-system. Caring for plants also helps us to remember to take care of ourselves and others, and as you often see a direct influence of your behaviour on a plant it helps build self-confidence. This is probably why a lot of people in recovery are encouraged to look after a plant, and keep that alive before taking on relationships with more complex beings, although it also provides something for us to do, as we learn a new skill. We can keep it simple, and progress to much more complicated plants which will reward us with fruit or flowers if we successfully take care of them.
With all those benefits I might have an indoor jungle at home before long! Who else enjoys the feeling of being surrounded by plants and nature?
Take care of yourselves.