How does nature help me stay well?

How does nature help me stay well?

Amy Lewis

We often talk about nature helping us feel well (it’s a big part of my job to do just that) but this weekend I found myself thinking how? How does nature help me stay well?

I think I have whittled it down to a few key things:

It’s a constant. It has been there for me throughout my life. It is there today as I look out of my window, it will be there tomorrow for me. I know its rhythms. I know that when the blossoms appear the lighter nights are on their way. I know I can get out into it when I need to.

Its non-judgmental. I don’t feel like I have to answer to it, I don’t feel like I need to know what everything is. Some people feel scared of going into nature, they feel they need to know what things are, how they work, what uses them. I don’t feel like that. I can just enjoy a yellow flower for being a beautiful yellow flower. I would encourage anyone who thinks you need to know nature or be an expert to put that feeling aside and just enjoy it.

That said, nature encourages me to keep learning too (one of the 5 ways to wellbeing). If I am interested in something I do often go away and look it up. For me this is usually larger things – birds, mammals. I delight in getting out my (very old) bird ID book and looking up what I saw – trying to fathom out if the picture matches, was it an adult, was it male or female. Sometimes I don’t find it, but that’s OK too, it makes me want to go back and look out for the same bird again. I saw my first female black cap the other day, and I was delighted!

It’s mine. Nature offers me moments which are just mine. I often say my spirit bird is a blackbird as I have found in times of challenge, sadness and loss that a blackbird will often appear and sing (I know that sounds daft but its true). Before a big meeting one hopped along the hedge as I walked towards the building singing away, it felt like it was just for me saying ‘you got this’. Nature can give us those moments- sunsets that feel like they were painted just for us for example. It makes me notice those things (another of the 5 ways to wellbeing) and be grateful for them. 

It makes me want to give back. I feel grateful for all it gives me, as I know I get much more from it than it does from me. So I feel motivated to give back where I can (another of the 5 ways!). To plant for pollinators, to let the lawn grow in areas, to put in a wildlife pond. All of these small actions are for wildlife, but it’s also selfishly for me as I get to see and enjoy the wildlife that uses it.  

It makes me feel like there will be another chance. I often get lost in panic – I didn’t get that thing completed, I was late for something, I didn’t call so-and-so back. That feeling can be all consuming sometimes. But nature helps me see that there is a tomorrow, that I can start over. It also shows us all that things can recover from even the most extreme situations – like the amazing tree at Clowes wood that has most of its trunk missing, but still has a beautiful canopy.

It makes me value time. I remember my parents saying ‘time goes faster’ as you get older and thinking it was nonsense. But it does seem that months and years fly the older you get. But the seasons help me mark that time, they help me value the time when things burst back into life after the winter, when the autumn arrives and the colours change. It lets me mark moments in time – we often say now ‘remember when the buddleia was covered in butterflies last summer’, ‘remember when we collected conkers last year’. It creates markers in time for me.

It takes me back. There are times when a smell in nature, or a place takes me back to being a child. For me Clowes Wood will always do that – transport me to being 7 and playing Robin Hood with my sister and cousins. Or the sight of cherry blossom, which makes me think of primary school and making bird’s nests with cut grass and ‘decorating’ them with fallen blossom. Or gorse, which reminds me of family holidays scrambling over welsh headland, legs being scratched to bits. Those memories are comforting and give me a sense of my roots.

And then there is the ‘feeling’. The one I can’t put into words. The one that makes me smile without realizing I am smiling. The one that makes my shoulders drop and my jaw unclench. The one that makes me breathe in deeper. That one I can’t explain, but I am hugely grateful for it.

I am off to enjoy watching the male blackbird dive bomb the pine cone fat balls in the garden with a cuppa.

Stay safe.