Finding something deeper

So many of you have spoken to me about how its been hard to remain really positive over the last few months. A combination of loss of jobs, loss of loved ones, fear of climate change, fear of the loss of green spaces, horrible politics….you name it and it has been thrown at us. According to the Office of National Statistics (ONS) anxiety has risen from 19% to 39% of the adult population since March and those over the age of 75 are twice as likely to be anxious as those between 16 and 24.

At the same time as we are experiencing very high stress levels, many of us are also asking the question whether we can do anything with our lives that will help us to cope better with what may still be to come. The answer in undoubtedly yes; we can tackle some of the anxiety we are encountering through nature. Here are my top five activities to rest the mind during this ongoing time of uncertainty.

1) Take a daily walk or bike ride

If you are able, make time every day for a walk or bike ride. Have two or three routes that you alternate. Make a point to take a camera and take photos as the seasons change. Notice the new plants in spring, the bird song, the transition to summer and the fall of leaves in autumn. Take in to account the different smells reflecting the changing times of year. Whether it is the mown grass of June or the wood smoke of October. Pick up leaves, stones, sticks…things that you associate with the season. Use the walk as time to breathe, see and feel.

2) Do some outdoors yoga

Many people want to connect at a deeper level to nature and the outdoors. If the weather is good, kick off your shoes, grab a mat and find somewhere outside away from people where you can be quiet and exercise in a way in which you can focus on the place you are in; the bird sounds, the wind, the contact with the ground. Use it as a place to clear your head of the worries, just for an hour, and allow peace to wash over you.

3) Draw or write a journal

I keep a journal of how I am feeling; but I also include in it reflections on what I have seen and heard in nature. Others prefer to draw rather than write. But both drawing and writing about what you are seeing and hearing outside demand that you stop and think differently. In a very busy and frighteningly fast world, this act of stopping is alien to many of us but is a great way of slowing down thoughts and thinking through our actions and behaviours.

4) Volunteer for a nature organisation

We are heading into a season where our nature reserves need attention and with the government still encouraging people to get outside, lets take some practical action for nature this autumn. There is nothing more rewarding than planting a hedge, or clearing a pond or digging out a silted-up stream. Look online for organisations working in your area and if you are relatively fit and able, join in to make a difference for nature!

5) Meditate, pray, reflect

As a Christian I deal with my anxiety in many ways; but prayer is one thing that can help. But whether you are someone of a faith or not it is entirely possible to find something deeper in nature. For some a walk through an ancient oak forest can be a deeply spiritual experience. For another it might be lying on a paddle board on a river or lake and just watching nature happen all around. But whatever your beliefs, don’t shy away from seeking out something deeper. Engaging with nature can be a brilliant way to disengage from our fears and anxieties and re-engage with something timeless and ancient.

My hope is that this autumn you will each encounter something new and liberating in nature. We may not be able to do anything about our current predicaments, but we can learn how to journey with the great outdoors into a place where we encounter more peace and more purpose in this season of challenge and change.