"We humans have lost the wisdom of genuinely resting and relaxing. We worry too much. We don't allow our bodies to heal, and we don't allow our minds and hearts to heal"
(Thich Nhat Hanh)
It’s December and Christmas is fast approaching. Whilst this may be the season of peace and good will to all, others may find it to be quite the opposite, often switching peace and goodwill for feelings of frantic and frazzled.
So, in an effort to take the more mindful route I chose to gift myself some Eco Therapy at the weekend instead of Retail therapy. I drove past the busy shops and headed for the hills and costal paths of the North Coast. Eco Therapy is the term used for getting ourselves outdoors and appreciating the beauty of nature.
I felt a sense of ease already knowing I wouldn’t be facing the manic rush of traffic queues, and shop aisles filled with all material gadgets and items that encourage the excess consumerism this season can all too often bring. The eco therapy was already starting to work its magic.
I drove along in my car singing to my favourite playlist on shuffle as the worries of the week started to gradually slip away. I began looking forward to the day ahead and the new people I was going to meet, as I was joining a hiking group full of people I had never met before.
I arrived at the meeting point and we began our journey along the hills and rugged coast line our beautiful north coast has to offer. It was a stormy day but sure isn’t that what brings the best waves and scenery in this area. As we walked along, I heard the waves crashing against the rocks and the wind was blowing in my hair and my face and I felt truly alive and grateful that I had made time for myself to go on this adventure.
I was coming back to my true authentic self and connecting with all the beauty that surrounded me, feeling truly fulfilled. I’m on a journey at the moment in terms of both my personal and professional development and going out into nature really allows me to stop, recalibrate and take stock of how far I’ve come. It gives time to create a vision for the future and the exciting opportunities that may yet lie ahead if I be brave and take courage in moving forward.
Going outside in nature really allows you to come into the present moment – you reach a point of true peacefulness during this time, as you become content with who you are right now and appreciate all the hard work, bravery, courage and strength it took to develop into the person you are now.
We are born to move and born to be outdoors in nature. It is so good for us spiritually, mentally and physically – we are hard wired to come out of our stress response and into our “rest and digest" response once we see the repeating patterns in nature (which are called fractals), such as tree branches, waves rock formations and flowers that will act as a catalyst for the production of the hormone Serotonin.
This hormone is our coping mechanism that enables us to feel happy, content and brave. However, nature has other lessons to teach us – we learn that it is ever changing nothing stays constant. Just like the waves that come and go - some big, some small, they are only temporary which is worth remembering when you are feeling low and worth appreciating during happier times.
We learn to appreciate the calmness in between these wave sets, as we know this is the time to rest and plan for whatever size or type of wave that may be coming next.
In looking at trees, we learn that in order to stand tall and gain strength against the elements of life we must develop strong foundations and root ourselves in good and healthy soil that nourishes us. In laying these foundations, we can grow to be strong and rise to meet whatever challenge comes our way.
By watching the river ebb and flow over the rocks and go at different speeds throughout its journey to the sea, we learn that in order to find our way through this life we need to learn to let go. It’s only when we become more fluid, more adaptable to change that our true path is easier - as staying rigid and fixed will not get us anywhere and make things more difficult for us to achieve our potential.
Moreover, that’s only in daytime, at night the stars and moon have other lessons to teach us – but that’s another story for another blog…
As I was out walking with the group, I also gained lessons from each person there on that day – we are tribal beings and we come alive when we feel connected to a group. I began different conversations and listened to the random topics of conversation and everyone’s unique thoughts and challenges.
I realised, we all may be from different walks of life, however we are all truly connected and just want the same things. These things all come down to love peace and happiness. We are all trying to find different ways of accessing this on a daily basis. It certainly explains why a group of adults would venture out for a walk on a dark and stormy day along the rugged but beautiful north coast of Antrim.
As I walked along the coastline I found painted stones all with words of encouragement to help and inspire anyone who stops to look at them - showing the true connection we have as humans and how this shared connection, when used with kindness at its core can be truly powerful indeed.
The first stone reads: "Don't panic, and carry a towel" wise words indeed for those of you acquainted with the benefits that cold water therapy has on our mental well being, The second stone quote reads "If something is important enough, even if the odds are stacked against you, you should still do it" (Elon Musk).
Just as this kind act intended for us to do - we must learn that self care to promote our mental health is essential for us to survive in this life. If we feel well, we can be a shining light and such strong support to those that may need our help also - so it all starts with ourselves as only we have the power to bring about the change we wish to bring into our lives.
So with this in mind, what could you do to bring love peace and happiness into your life?
Our weekdays are filled with responsibility, duties and places to be and people to see. Often, we never get the chance no matter how well intentioned we are, to really take stock of what is important in life and try to prioritise this - instead of our never ending to do list that can fill us with anxiety.
Instead of prioritising a to do list, it would be an important exercise for us to take note of our daily activities and find out which activities truly bring us joy – I bet the activities that bring us joy are often fleeting moments that perhaps take up about 10% of our week (if we are lucky).
As I drove home today I drove home in a different state of mind – enriched with more knowledge and feeling very connected to a group who were strangers at the start of the day, but became kindred spirits and teachers all in their own way as we all walked along the gorgeous costal pathways .
As I played my music again and the songs randomly shuffled through all my favourites, Mr Mick Jagger made an appearance with the classic lyrics
“you can’t always get what you want..but if you try sometime, you’ll find you get what you need”
I just thought yes – this truly summed up my day and life in general, as whilst we may not always get what we want – that might not necessarily be a bad thing at all. Life always finds a wonderful way of bringing us exactly what we need just at the moments we never expect it – there’s always a lesson to be learned by lifes experiences (good or bad), on a daily basis. We just have to seek out what that is and use it to enrich our lives and mental well-being.
So have a think about what you want right now and ask yourself is this what I really need?
Sometimes the two can be very different indeed.
What truly brings out your authentic joy?
Yes, the latest gadget or item of clothing may bring you fleeting happiness for a short time - but it quickly goes sometimes even within minutes…
What one activity could you do this week that may bring you true fulfilment and joy and set you up for the week ahead?
This may be something tiny if time is of the essence, such as a fifteen-minute walk in the park or maybe sitting with your morning tea or coffee watching out the window instead of scrolling your phone and or watching TV.
It could be sitting down with a book that has been gathering dust on your book shelf or maybe meeting or calling an old friend you haven’t spoken to in a while.
Really think about this to try and take a step forward this week to make some time to prioritise yourself, no matter how long or short it is – you will notice a difference…just wait and see....