2020 is like no other. 2020 is the year of stay-cations.
My first stay-cation was at home in Switzerland during lockdown. It was at this time that I discovered a beautiful walk in my neck of the woods. Every day, at the end of the day, I would walk to this island and back. It was a joy to behold. Right on my doorstep. I’ve been living in the area for 5 years and it’s taken me all this time to discover it. Because I never had time before. Now that I had, it felt like an amazing discovery…quiet, rejuvenating, refreshing.
My second stay-cation was a few days in Zermatt, in the Swiss alps. Hiking, marvelling at the beauty of nature in its full summer sunshine glory, breathing in the purity of fresh, clean air at over 1,608m altitude. It was spellbinding to gaze at the iconic Matterhorn each time the clouds lifted to reveal the fullness of its majestic form. Soaked in its awesomeness, it reminded me of how grateful I am to be able to immerse in, and truly savour, nature.
Some benefits of nature
Ever wondered why people are always saying “it’s good to get out into nature”, “it’s good to get some fresh air”, “it’s good to spend time with the trees..”, “it’s good to be out in the sun…”?
Did you know..
- that, in addition to the sunshine vitamin (D) that we get from the sun, sunlight also helps us to protect against inflammation, lower high blood pressure, improve brain function, boost our mood and improve the quality of our sleep?
- that fresh air helps us to clean our lungs and release toxins, digest food more effectively, improve blood pressure and heart rate, strengthen our immune system, increase our energy?
Ever notice yourself taking deeper breaths when the air is fresh and clean, especially at higher altitudes? Deep breathing helps to relax us…and who couldn’t be doing with more relaxation right now?
- that walking in nature helps to boost our memory and concentration? A Stanford University study found that 50 minutes walking in a city park can boost moods, memories and attention, whilst 90-minute walks can help change our brains to protect against depression! And – another study – from the University of Michigan, found that walking in nature boosts memory 20% more than walking around the city!
So who’s up for more brain power..?
But just how is nature such a potent source of goodness?
I believe that it all boils down to one fundamental thing: energy. Yes, energy.
We’re made of energy. Energy is all around us, invisible to the naked eye. When we’re out in – and truly connect with – nature, we take in energy through our five sense organs and our body. That enables us to soak up all the benefits of nature through all our bodily senses and being. We soak in the yumminess of nature through our:
- nose: when we smell the scent of sweet flowers, inhale the immune-boosting scent of trees;
- tongue: when we eat plant-based foods, fruits and drink spring water;
- eyes: when we marvel at the beauty of parks, mountains, lakes, animals, rainbow, the sea, the sky;
- skin: when we expose our skin to the sun, stand barefoot on the earth, hug trees (if you happen to be a tree hugger!);
- ears: when we listen to the uplifting sounds of birds chirping, soothing sounds of water lapping on a lakeside, calming rustling of leaves on a trail; and
- body: when we go for a walk, hike, run, swim or do other activities in nature.
One of my favourite activities is via ferrata. During our time in Zermatt, we tackled all three parts of a challenging trail at Schweifinen. It was a pure meditative experience, as we listened to the gentle clipping and unclipping of the caribiner clip with every single move we made, whilst paying our utmost attention to where we placed each foot. Step by step, moment by moment, breath by breath. I love it because it’s such an amazing way to hone mental focus and clear the mind! When I’m so intensely focused in the moment and really tune into the rhythm of my breath, there’s no room for fear or anything else (even if I’m practically vertical on the mountain)!
Of course, activities aside, we can also treat ourselves to moments of pure relaxation. After all these months indoors, we can be soaking up the sun to bring some colour to our skin (avoiding strong mid-day sun and with appropriate protection, of course). Or by simply being outdoors (with appropriate social distancing).
Here’s one tip to enable us to savour nature fully and maximise its benefits.
Psychologist David Strayer from the University of Utah recommends putting away our mobile phones whilst we’re tuning into nature. He says: “The idea is to engage our senses and interrupt, even briefly, the steady drip of …stress.”
I couldn’t agree more. We spend enough time with our devices all day long, that we can also use nature as our training ground to detach from them at will..
Savouring nature indoors
And for those of us who’re not able to get out into nature, we can also savour nature at home – by gardening, having plants and fresh flowers indoors, sniffing the potent scents of essential oils that can help lift our mood, applying natural products to our bodies, eating more plant-based foods and supplements.
Nature is an all-pervasive and potent source of energy for us. The wide array of activities we can do in nature appeals to all ages, at whatever level of fitness. And here’s the bonus: it’s free, hurrah!
As we navigate our way through extraordinary life’s challenges, let’s keep reminding ourselves of the importance of tapping into the potency of nature to regenerate us. And to shore up our defences. When we savour nature through all our senses and our whole body, it’s like feeding our body with a powerhouse of energy….100% natural, no preservatives, no additives.
Who’s up for a free dose of goodness and energy?