Nature Cure

I have stolen the title of this blog from the author Richard Mabey, who wrote his book of the same name after his recovery from clinical depression, describing how his absorption with nature helped him begin to turn the tide of his debilitating illness.  The reviews of his book are mixed – some people loved his descriptions of re-connection with the natural world, whilst others said it simplified depression and recovery.  However, one thing is clear different things work for different people and psychologists know of research that shows  connecting with nature, can release the “feel-good” hormones and chemicals, such as dopamine, which protects against depression. Let’s spread the knowledge around, you never know who might benefit! 

It has also recently been proven that smelling and looking at certain plants lowers blood pressure, so really, whatever connection we can find with nature surely has to be for the good. 

There are new buzz words for this connection which you may have heard of: “Awe Walks” and “Forest Bathing”.  Don’t be put off by either title – they are simply ways of trying to explain to an increasingly sterile and insulated society how to appreciate and gain from the natural world. 

I don’t have to remind you that we are now in another lockdown and some of you might feel that it is impossible at this present time to have that connection – after all, you are now asked to stay at home and only go out for essentials, work or exercise.  Great if you have a garden, or live in a rural area so are able to step straight out into open countryside, but what happens if you live in a town or city?  How can you connect with nature – and anyway, what do we mean by it? 

Regardless of where you live, nature is never far away.  If you live in a city, there will be a park within walking distance, or a river.  If you’ve been flooded it may all look like mud rather than grass but get your wellies on and go and look for signs of spring. You’ll be surprised by what you’ll see you what you might see whilst walking alongside a city riverbank; someone posted a photograph of an otter swimming, while a friend of mine saw kingfishers nesting in the overflow pipes above the river in a rather run-down area of Sheffield last year.  London parks are a haven for birds and all cities have various birds roosting on their buildings and trees.  A project in Edinburgh would normally have bird watching walks as part of their mental health schemes. Or if you have a garden, put up a few bird feeders and watch the different species swooping in to feed – Pleasure comes from tiny things. To get the mental benefit you have to consciously stop to notice things, so set an alarm on your phone so when it rings, it becomes your reminder to look out the window, go for a walk, or simply check how your houseplants are doing. 

Use your ears – As the day is beginning to lengthen again birdsong is more noticeable – try tuning in to the soundscape in your locality, it may be more interesting than you realise.  

Among the easiest of plants to grow from seed in pots are Nasturtiums, Calendula, (Pot Marigold) and Rocket. It’s something you can do in your own time, or if you have young children maybe they can ‘help’! You can start them indoors and plant out once frosts are over, or simply plant outside later as the weather warms.  Nasturtium leaves and Rocket can be picked and eaten straight from the plant and provide a bit of vitamin C – rich zing to any day, while Marigold leaves have a soothing aroma.  The flowers of all three can also be added to cooking. 

Plants attract all kinds of interesting and beneficial insects, such as bumble bees and hoverflies.   There is a real satisfaction in growing things from seed (plus it’s more economical) and there are many more kinds of edible or aromatic plants that are not difficult to get going.  Have a browse online.  Seeds are easily delivered by post, too.  

If you are home-schooling at present, get a routine in place that your children go outside at the end of their day.  Young children will benefit by letting off steam – you can even help their education by giving them a good old-fashioned nature walk!  Even a walk along urban streets can be educational – you can point out the different buildings, look at the different trees growing over neighbouring walls, look at the history and geography around you.  It may surprise you what you see when you take time to look.  Equally, try to encourage older children / teenagers to go out with you too – they need something to relieve the intensity of online learning.  

Anyone suffering from anxiety and depression may think, that this blog simplifies the depth and seriousness of these conditions – it’s not meant to, it is meant as suggestions to give a little light relief and to offer stepping stones of ways to improve your day – a stone which you can securely build upon to help you and others. 

Click here for more information on Richard Mabey’s book: Nature Cure: Amazon.co.uk: Mabey, Richard: 9780099531821: Books 

If you feel you would benefit from some professional help, please contact us. We’re working online; for a confidential chat on how we can help longer term, call Adriana directly on +447890 667103 or our office 01625 786026. Email [email protected]

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Tiny tips for living a fuller, happier life! 

Being kind is good for your health!

In these strange and unusual times, it’s inevitable to become wrapped up in the current pressure of living. With all the additional pressures, it’s easy to forget about the simple act of being kind. 

The list is endless, occupying the children, worrying about work, getting yourself kitted up with PPE to undertake a shift at work or working from home, perhaps with a child as well. It can seem to take over and the weeks fly by without you realising that you’ve not spoken to that friend of yours for ages or your elderly aunt.  

You might find you’re much busier and your patience is wearing thin with the little things that may not have bothered you previously. It’s becoming almost too much to bear in the current climate. With rules and guidance changing on a daily basis (it seems) this creates underlying uncertainty and anxiety without you realising. You may find yourself acting out of the ordinary and feeling wound up at the slightest thing. Now is a good time to stop and remind yourself to be kind, it’s needed more than ever!  

You have to start with being kind to yourself. Give yourself 5 minutes to relax, practice some deep breathing – (click the link for breathing exercises https://www.facebook.com/livelifenotstrife/posts/2752713634951953), and tell yourself ‘I am a good person’ whether you believe it or not, make it your own personal mantra! Or if you can’t do that, think of something you’ve done that makes you feel good. This promotes a sense that whatever happens you’re good enough! It will increase your self-confidence and help you to act kindly to others.  

Smile! A basic staple in being kind. You’ll find it gives you a lift if you can remember to smile, even if you force yourself to smile, there is years of research into this very topic that proves smiling can help you to relax and boost the immune system. It turns out my mum was right when she cajoled me into “turning those corners up!” when I was sulking over something as a child. If you smile you can almost instantly feel better, it creates physiological changes in the body and releases feel good hormones. Also, it uses less muscles in the face than frowning and who wants frown lines! A smile creates smiles from others with very little effort. Smile at someone you pass in the street – even if you’re wearing a mask, you can smile with your eyes! You may just make their day a little brighter and chances are you will receive a smile back from them which in turn feels good.  

Do something for others as often as you can, but don’t forget to do something nice for you too. You’ll be pleasantly surprised by the reactions you get back and it will help you reduce your own stress. 

A kind deed can prompt others to be kind, you can be the catalyst of a chain of kindness if you make the first step. Who knows where the chain will lead to! For example, For many years, when I visited my London office every Wednesday, a gentleman who I don’t know from Adam, would always say “Hello” to me as he was letting himself into his office at the same time, and I would say the same back. This basic pleasantry in passing was enough to give me a little lift as I began my day. It made a difference. We can make our own and other people’s lives better and happier with simple acts of kindness.   

Another example is when the Duchess of Cambridge spoke at the National Oak Academy online assembly for school children, this year, about the importance of being kind and how being kind in itself creates a good feeling for those carrying out the kind deed and for the receiver. It seems simple, but is easily forgotten in our busy lives. 

A friend’s mum used to say “whatever you do in life, always be happy and always be kind” it may be advice that isn’t always easy to follow but is certainly something you should aspire to because now we know the science behind this. Choosing to feel happy and small acts of kindness actually change how our brain functions and reduce stress, by changing brain activity, together with other things it builds emotional resilience. 

If you’re finding things difficult at the moment and would like to feel happier in your life, we can help. 

Live Life Not Strife 
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Tiny tips towards living a fuller happier life!