Picture yourself on a sunny day at the beach. You’re relaxed in your beach chair without a worry in the world, enjoying the chance to slow down and decompress. There are a million and one studies that prove we can improve our mood from time spent in nature. Below are ways to use our senses to connect with this source of stress reduction and happiness boosters!
The beauty is that we can go to places that are most visually pleasing to our preferences: the beach to admire the bright blue water, the forest to be surrounded by shades of greens and brown, or even a park to sit outside and see bright kites flying and dogs running around. Even at home, we can bring in colorful plants and flowers that add brightness and joy (especially when working from home!). Take a moment to pause in any natural setting and ask yourself, “what do I find beautiful about my surroundings?”
What is one of the first things that happens when you close your eyes at the beach? Suddenly the sound of the crashing waves become clearer and you melt into its ebb and flow. Elsewhere, perk your ears up to the chirping grasshoppers in the woods, the desert wind, the faint sound of snow falling, the wind rustling through the trees. How does focusing on these sounds bring you peace? Is there a sense of trust in your surroundings that is promoted when you become more vulnerable without your sight?
Touch and feel
What textures feel best for you? Is it the rough tree bark, the dirt in your garden, the smoothness of water? What do the temperatures of natural elements provide? The warmth of the sun on your face, the alertness that comes from a cold winter day or the peace from a lazy warm afternoon, the refreshing lake to cool you down, maybe you even like the humidity of the forest? Perhaps the best part about any setting for you is the way the breeze wraps you up in the present moment. What textures and temperatures make you feel so sure, and so happy, that you are in that environment?
The most deeply rooted part of how we engage with the elements outside of us. So often, we are made aware of our entrance to the natural environment because of the smell that hits us – the ocean air, the musty forest floor, the fragrance of a garden, even the pungent fish smell at a docking station that at least lets us know that we’re about to get on a boat. We use essential oils to connect us to plants that may otherwise be less accessible, the smell of fire can instill in us a comfort knowing we have warmth, the smell of dirt while gardening tells us we’re no longer in our work clothes sitting behind a computer. When you think of favorite nature settings, what do you smell? What positive emotions are connected to these scents that organically bring a smile to our face?
A beautiful companion to smell, sometimes we are lucky to experience it so much that we get to taste it, too. What beach trip hasn’t offered the salty taste of the ocean air, if not from tasting it from the water itself while floating in the waves? The air may also have lingering dust if in a desert, or the pines could be so strong in the mountains that you almost taste the needles themselves. Nature provides us with delicious nourishment – the flavors of just-tapped syrup, wild berries, and freshly – picked apples tells us that we are at times literally enjoying the fresh fruits of Mother Nature’s labor. What are your favorite tastes and flavors that indicate you are in a setting that makes you feel grounded and nourished?
I hope that even just reading these ideas, you are a bit more at peace. I hope you can find a way to enjoy the bountiful benefits of nature wherever you are today!
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– Samantha Marks, RD, LDN
Registered Dietitian | Email Samantha