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