How I found hope in nature
“And into the forest, I go, to lose my mind and find my soul” John Muir
Strangely it has taken me nearly 51 years to appreciate the value of the above quote.
My life has always been a rush, a constant race against time, a drain on my energy. I was working, parenting, wifing and just generally surviving! I had most definitely lost my soul!
The pandemic has changed that, and not only for me I guess, but for many of us. I was forced to slow down which, in essence, sounds great, but when you are not used to it and have had a life plagued by depression it can be a difficult and daunting process.
Luckily with my work, I am still busy for a lot of the time, and as much as I love my job, remote working can of course bring with it a multitude of mental health struggles. Whilst it does have lots of great benefits, a better work/life balance, less travel etc it also lends itself to isolation and loneliness, the stuff my depression would feed upon.
So this year I decided to do something positive and productive, to gain more purpose and have a focus…..my husband and I brought some mountain bikes! Fun, flexible as well physically and mentally rewarding!
We now spend a lot of our weekends, and some sunny evenings exploring on our bikes. Not only have I discovered lots of beautiful local places that I never even knew existed, but I am also physically fitter and mentally stronger.
We all know that there is a lot to be said for the benefits of fresh air, but do you know exactly what some of those benefits are?
Here are a few:
- It is good for your digestive system - Fresh air increases the flow of oxygen helping you digest food more effectively.
- It helps improve blood pressure and heart rate - That said, where possible try to avoid polluted environments, particularly if you need to improve your blood pressure. Stay away from the busy traffic as the body will need to work harder to get the amount of oxygen it needs over polluted car fumes.
- It makes you happier - The more fresh air you get, the more oxygen you will breathe which will increase the amount of serotonin (the happy hormone) you inhale, consequently making you happier.
- It strengthens your immune system - By increasing the amount of fresh air we get, will increase the amount of oxygen which helps our white blood cells function properly by fighting and killing bacteria and germs.
- It cleans your lungs - Your lungs dilate more from having an increase of oxygen so fresh air improves the cleansing of your lungs. You release airborne toxins from your body when exhaling through your lungs.
- It gives you more energy and a sharper mind - You may have noticed after spending time outside, you come back indoors feeling brighter and perhaps ready to get back to work. More oxygen results in greater brain functioning, improving your concentration skills and providing you with more energy. In addition, venturing outside will also help you produce vitamin D from the sun (when it does come out), which is essential for many bodily functions including supporting our immune system, strengthening our bones, teeth and much more.
But for me, it has simply been the ability to start appreciating what is good around me, the environment we live in, the animals and insects we share it with, the magic of the flowers and the trees…..just the vast beauty of it all. To know I am also benefiting so much physically is just the icing on the hopefully calorie-neutral cake!
Life is definitely richer when you step outside, whether it’s a garden, a balcony, a ride, a walk or just an open door, breathe in that natural medicine and reclaim your soul…. I for one am glad I did.
Cordelia Castle, Tutor, The eLearning Network.