I imagine a lot of people can relate when I say that I underestimated just how important being in nature is for our physical and mental health. When the first lockdown hit, it truly felt like the only escape we had. Prior to lockdown, I think I took nature for granted a bit. Sure, I would go for a walk around a reservoir or visit the beach on a rare hot day in the UK, but actually experience nature and take it all in? Not so much.
During the lockdown(s), my pace changed. I never thought I would be someone to finish WFH and race to put my trainers on so that I could meet a friend outside for a walk in the dark and cold. Or that my only weekend plans were to go on a walk in my local area. Often in life there is so much distraction and a lot of that I was not intentionally choosing for myself. I have anxiety and to manage this I will keep busy. Lockdown allowed me to re-evaluate my pace, what I want from life and other tools I can use to manage my anxiety better. One of those being to spend more time in nature. I invite you to reflect on how nature benefits you? What do you get from it?
Nature comforts and reassures me. It reminds me that there is so much more to life then my worries and anxieties. Yes, they are valid and very real, but in those moments when you are taking in a beautiful sunset or eating your lunch in the garden and a tiny bit of sun peeps out from behind a cloud and warms your skin or you can hear the rustling of the trees in the wind… in those moments… the worries melt away and I feel like everything will be okay. I become stronger. It may only last a second or a minute, but I felt it and believed it. I think nature offers an alternative perspective too – like when you have climbed a big hill and are looking down at the landscape, it can put things into perspective. It reminds you that the world is bigger than the one in your head, that good things do happen to lots of people, and that some of the many things you are thinking about are actually not as important as your anxious brain may make you believe.
Nature reminds me of our impermanence, that nothing lasts forever, and everything is always changing. I find change difficult, even good change. Last year, I spent a lot of time sat watching and feeding the ducks. When I first sat here, the ducks were newly born and now, they are parents of their own. Being in nature more over the past year meant that I really observed change, for example the change in the ducks and changes in the seasons. Although it felt like our life was on hold during lockdown, so much changed for all of us. I often think change will be bad, but nature reminds me that change is natural and necessary. Even in the coldest and darkest periods, nature is preparing itself to bloom again.
Nature makes me feel less alone. The lockdown(s) took away our ability to connect with others properly. The facetimes became tedious, even going on walks by January felt like running a mental marathon, and I craved connection, laughter, and feeling alive. For me, the lockdown also stripped me of my personality, all I did was work, complete my masters, see the news, feel alone. Without social interactions or being able to do things that are meaningful to me, I started to wonder who I was. When I was in nature, it energized me. I could breathe easier. I could smile. I could discover. I often felt so lonely and trapped, but then I would take myself on a walk and put on a podcast and it would lift some of that for a while. Most of my happiest memories in 2020 come from when I was in nature with others, and for that I can now look back and feel grateful for. It was tough but nature grounded me, held me, and helped me to get through. Now, I have started going open water swimming, have a bucket list of hikes I am going to complete, and a newfound appreciation for something that was right there all along.