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5 Ways to Find Happiness in Nature

“Turn your face toward the sun and the shadows will fall behind you.” ~Maori Proverb

Imagine a graph showing the number of hours the average person spends out of doors today compared with 50 years ago. Imagine another graph showing how many people suffer from depression, stress, and anxiety compared to 50 years ago.

I’m confident that there would be a direct correlation between the two graphs; as one has declined the other has risen.

As we’ve turned our backs on nature we’ve lost our natural source of happiness. By turning our faces back toward the sun we find lasting happiness and more.

My life has led me into nature, away from it and back into the heart of nature again. Now I know there are simple ways we can all reconnect with nature whether we live in the city, the woods, or somewhere in between.

I grew up on the west coast of Scotland between Atlantic waves and rolling hills. The tiny hamlet where I spent the first 17 years of my life had a population of 17 people, and we were 60 miles from the closest cinema or swimming pool.

The primary school population peaked one year when we had 12 pupils gathered from a 10 mile radius. Aged 5–12 we were taught in one classroom by one teacher. They shut the school the year after I went to high school because there was only one pupil left.

I couldn’t wait to swap wild countryside for a different kind of wild. As I grew up, I craved boys, bright lights, big city, excitement, and culture, so I gravitated to London.

On a daily basis my senses were assailed by the buzz of city life.

I stared wide-eyed at advertising posters pasted on the underground and hordes of people who bustled past me in an eclectic mix of style, race, and age. I absorbed myself in the pulsing heart of the vibrant city and forgot about the countryside I’d left behind.

I never consciously missed the soothing landscape of childhood and my connection to wildness. I was fed by a different kind of wild.

I usually spent Saturday mornings trawling Camden market for clothes and music; afternoons would move timelessly into evenings drinking in dark pubs and dancing ‘til dawn.

I feasted on galleries, museums, cinemas, and theatres and wandered the cobbled streets of Covent Garden absorbing culture and color through all my senses. When Monday morning came around I’d get the underground train to my office and throw myself into work, barely glancing out of the window.

It’s no wonder I got migraines that lasted 3–4 days at a time. It’s no wonder I got depressed, burnt out, exhausted, and disconnected from myself. It’s no wonder I got soul sick.

All my energy was out in the world—being active, busy and loud. I did nothing to nurture myself, to top up my energy or give myself space and silence. All yang, no yin. The migraines were my body’s way of saying something had to change.

The turning point came when my doctor suggested that a yoga class would do my migraines more good than increasing the pain medication. That first yoga class was a homecoming—a return to a place of peace within myself. I was in love!

The more I practiced yoga the more I tapped into the infinite wisdom of my body. I listened when my body didn’t want to be dragged off to a gallery opening or the latest film. My body told me it didn’t want alcohol anymore and it certainly didn’t want the thumping bass-line of underground clubs.

Through yoga, the feelings of happiness that previously seemed to come from external events began to come from a place deep inside of me.

The more I got comfortable with being quietly present with myself, the more I was called out into nature.

Gradually I moved to the southern outskirts of the city and spent my weekends wandering by the river and reading books on park benches.

And then the time came to move back to the Scottish countryside to create a nest for the baby that was growing in my belly. I had to heal and remember how to be yin as well as yang. I had to soak myself so deeply in nature that I would know its touch wherever I lived.

I discovered that reconnecting to nature is the journey back home to the self, finding inner peace and soul-deep reconnection.

I’d like to share my favorite 5 ways for connecting to nature with you:

1. Slow down to nature’s pace.

When you walk slowly, you breathe more slowly and you will instantly feel more relaxed. As you slow down, begin to notice the nature that’s around you.

It may be a little piece of moss in a crack on the pavement or a tree you’ve never noticed before. Look around you slowly and consciously and see what you find when you settle into this more natural pace of being.

2. Try barefoot breathing.

We humans are the only creatures to place a shoe between the soles of our feet and the Soul of the earth. The simple act of removing your shoes and standing barefoot on the earth satisfies a tribal need for reconnection.

Find a quiet place out of doors—a corner of the park, a quiet place in your garden, or your favorite wild place.

Kick off your shoes, close your eyes, and take 100 soft slow barefoot breaths feeling the sun on your face, the air on your skin, and the warm heart of the earth through the soles of your feet.

3. Spend some time cloud watching.

When was the last time you lay on the grass and watched the clouds float by in the sky above you? I’ll bet you did it as a child but haven’t done it nearly as much as an adult.

Cloud-watching clears the mind and brings calm to all your senses. Try it in the evening when sunset paints the clouds with pink and orange, on sunny days with a buzzing soundtrack of insects, or on a stormy day when you can watch 10 shades of grey roll past in just a few minutes.

4. Hug a tree.

When you think of trees what words come to mind? Strong? Tall? Statuesque? Resilient? Ancient? The oldest trees on the planet have been living for thousands of years and we rely on trees to produce the oxygen we need to breathe.

“Tree-hugger” is often used jokingly but hugging a tree is a simple way to top up your energy levels by soaking up all that strength and oxygen-rich goodness! Lean in close and lay your cheek against the trunk. Feel the texture of the bark against your skin and open your arms to embrace the tree.

5. Plant spirit medicine.

Native people around the world talk about the spirit of the plants they use for healing. The spirit of a plant is greater than the sum of all its active ingredients, and you can tap into the spirit of plants too. Ever noticed how you are attracted to particular cut flowers or plants at different times in your life?

Go somewhere with flowers and turn your awareness into your heart by focusing on your gentle breath flowing in and out.

From this tender place of connection, notice which flowers attract you most—which call to your heart? Spend time absorbing their beauty and be open to the idea that they’re giving you the healing you most need.

So anytime you want to feel happy or inspired or soothed or reminded of your true nature, head outside and turn your face toward the sun.

Photo by Cavin

Avatar of Jackie Stewart

About Jackie Stewart

Jackie Stewart is co-creator of 10 Steps to Soothe Your Soul in Nature free e-course and Barefoot Breathing e-course. She offers soul support using flower and crystal essences, guided meditation and spiritual counselling at www.flowerspirit.co.uk.

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  • http://lovelylittleone.blogspot.com/ Bettina

    I have found yoga has taught me many of these same things. I now live in the country, and find when i return to the city I feel like I am having a sensory overload. I often need my yoga during these times to calm me down.  There is definitely something to be said for living closer to nature.

  • http://unclutteredsoul.wordpress.com/ cary

    Jackie, there are many gifts that we give and receive by embracing the beauty, wisdom and peace within Nature, within Ourselves. Thank You.

  • Karina

    I loved your call to reconnect with Nature, Jackie! I have always loved hugging trees and now I am becoming addicted to Barefoot Breathing too : ). Love, Karina

  • Petrea Hansen-Adamidis

    Beautiful!  Without a connection to nature we are disconnected.  We need reminders like these.  Thanks-you for all your wonderful tips!

  • Meztli

    Beautifully written! Thank you so much from the reminder Jackie! I could travel with you around all of those places in London since I am in London myself. Luckily, I have also gone back into my natural rhythms and no longer seek the wild life that London can offer. I am a proud tree hugger! x Meztli

  • http://www.loransheart.com/about/whats-in-the-heart-land/ Loran Hills

    Jackie, my life was a little like yours in reverse – I grew up in the city outside of Washington, DC and gradually moved farther and farther away into the countryside.  Now I live “in the wild” and love it so.  Your Barefoot Breathing course helped me appreciate where I live even more.  I can’t wait for the snow to melt so I can get back outside!

  • Gin

    Lovely post and beautiful reminders! These things can truly make such a difference for us. Thank you for this!

  • http://www.justherejustnow.com/ Lisa @ Just here. Just now.

    This is a lovely reminder, thank you. I don’t have as much nature around me as I would like, but I have found that even houseplants on my desk help me feel more connected and grounded. Maybe I’ll plan a drive out to the country this weekend!! 

  • http://www.BigIslandDog.com/ Jt Clough | Big Island Dog

    I have found this to be so very true.  I get to be outside much more than ever since living in Hawaii.  The barefoot connection to the earth is HUGE.  It comes naturally here and one of the reasons why they call this Big Island of Hawaii so healing I believe.  Connection to the sand, the earth, the ocean the sun.  I love it.

    No matter where you are…. get outside! :)  Feel the energy.  Smile.  Be grateful.

  • http://creativelifeinwords.wordpress.com/ Andy Bowker

    I could never live in London, way too busy! I think for me even taking a short walk during my lunch break does me good, and I’m looking forward to when the lighter evenings come, that will be a great way to spend a bit of time in nature! 

  • Ciaoccgirl

    <3 <3 <3 this! Loved the feeling that rose within me the more I read. I too am now giving in to the craving in my soul to reconnect with nature. Taken forgranted all these years, it is ready to burst out and I am ready and willing to let it. Loved your suggestions! I will definately be hugging a tree real soon :)

    Peace, love and light!

  • http://www.facebook.com/ginarafkind Gina Rafkind

    Such a lovely post Jackie……I use all those 5 ways to connect with nature and I feel life flow much easier by being connected to nature………nature is quite an amazing teacher :).
    Thx for sharing!

  • http://twitter.com/WisdomAnger WA

    A beautiful post, Jackie. I can almost feel the soil under my feet now. This is such a crucial reminder for us to pay attention to the cry of our soul and get into nature for refreshment at every turn.

    The “Turn your face toward the sun and the shadows will fall behind you” illustration is powerfully sticking with me. What an amazing quote!

    For some reason my DISQUS profile is pointing to my outdated Twitter account. It should be http://twitter.com/MindfulAngerMgt

    Thanks again for the post.

  • http://www.facebook.com/kiri.speirs1 Kiri Speirs

    I love that quote – especially coming from New Zealand. In my online community it is the motto of the group who are post treatment for childhood cancer, I think it applies to so many situations in life.

  • http://twitter.com/JSFlowerspirit Jackie Stewart

    Thank you all for such thoughtful comments. Nature is such a Soul-deep part of us that it always feels like coming home.

  • http://twitter.com/CraigRuvere Craig Ruvere

    Jackie. Wonderful post and so fitting today. I live in NJ and the temperature for early March is in the low 70′s. Crazy! But since I’m currently unemployed, I have the advantage of going outside and enjoying the sights and sounds of nature, which are often covered up when people get home from school and work. I never understood why people cannot be outside and just enjoy the music of the birds and the wind. Too many of us are afraid that the silence will cause us to look internally at ourselves and sadly many will not like the picture they see. It’s truly a shame that people don’t connect more with nature and ultimately with themselves. Thanks for the inspiring words today :)

  • http://www.yourfullplate.com/ Marla

    Love this, Jackie!  Thank you so much. This topic spoke to me a lot, since I live in a borough of NYC and work in a busy neighborhood in the city.  Last year the city just started to feel really bad to me – I’d feel really sad and panicked on commute way out of my quiet, adorable neighborhood and started yearning to spend my days there instead, where the pace is slower and it just FEELS better.  You remind me that part of what I’ve been feeling is my disconnection from nature.  (Happy ending, though, for my novel of a comment… I’m starting a new job next month that’s very very close to home!)

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100001642911068 Jen Nguyen

    Lovely piece. I used to often do this last year and then I stopped for some reason, and just dove into major stress mode for a few long months. That stress sure caught up to me and lately I’ve been feeling sick and whatnot. I was so caught up doing homework (been loaded quite a bit this semester), and failed to even try to find down time for myself where I just relax outdoors for a bit. Why? Because I’ve been scared that I will run out of time to get work done. My mind was so wrapped up in work and keeping busy. Thankfully, I’ll be taking a little trip to LA tomorrow with a good friend, and we can just kick back. We’ve both each been going through difficult times these past few months as well, so this will be wonderful. Better yet, we’re going to a huge Buddhist temple :)

  • Greg Southwell

    I’ve closed my eyes in my City office and transported myself back home to the rolling Northants woods and fields. Bliss

  • Lv2terp

    This is such a beautiful, calming, and spiritual blog…thank you for your wisdom and sharing that connecting to our true authentic self and nature is vital!!! :)

  • http://twitter.com/WLF_Farnham Helen Witcomb

    Really loved this blog post, I write a blog about exercise and the over 50s, do you mind if I wrote a post around this blog post and provided a link to your post from my webpage?

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  • Dave Nordella

    I have walked in the forest in Northern California and Oregon for the same reason. I walk barefoot on the beach to relax. Thank you, Jackie, for reminding us that losing touch with nature is losing touch with our self.