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The healing power of nature

During lockdown, many of us turned to nature to find solace in uncertain times. But as we return to our workplaces and as our calendars begin to fill up, and with autumn just around the corner, how can we stay connected with our local landscapes?

Lockdown has been described by some as a ‘great pause’, a period in which so much of the world was brought to a standstill that we were forced to change our daily routine. But one constant was the great outdoors and, for those living near the seaside, those close to fields and forests and those living in cities alike, time outdoors provided a welcome break from the pressures of remote working, working on the front lines or home schooling.

One recent survey, commissioned by the National Trust, found that more than two-thirds (68%) of adults in the UK had found happiness and relaxation by spending time in nature between March and June. With shops, restaurants, leisure centres, gyms, theatres and cinemas shut, social calendars filled with socially distanced walks, runs and bike rides.

2020 has doubtless been an extremely stressful time for many of us, but nature is known to have a relaxing and restorative effect. According to one Finnish study, spending just 15 quiet minutes in nature can help people feel less stressed, depressed and anxious. Other researchers have found that time in nature can help to bring down your blood pressure and heart rate, ease muscle tension and slow the production of stress hormones. The healing benefits of nature are so revered that there is a type of formal treatment for mental health issues which involves immersing the patient in nature while they complete day-to-day activities – ecotherapy. This is before we come on to the fact that spending time outdoors often entails physical activity, connecting with loved ones or even meeting new friendly faces.

Our new-found appreciation for nature should, therefore, not be written off as a passing phase. The National Trust survey found that more than half of the population (55%) plan to keep their habit of spending more time in nature going forward – but with offices re-opening and social calendars refilling just as the nights begin to draw in and temperatures start to drop, this will be easier said than done.

Six Ways to stay connected to Mother Earth as we return to a new normal

ELM RD itself was created to help people slow down and prioritise not only themselves, but their connection to the natural world. During an unplanned stroll in Golden Gate Park, California, founder Miguel was struck by the sights and smells of beautiful trees and decided that his purpose was not to work a corporate job with a hectic schedule, but to bring natural scents to others and help them feel rejuvenated.

With this in mind, this blog explores some of the ways we can stay connected to Mother Earth as we return to a new normal.

1. Create a short nature-based ritual. The difference between a ritual and a routine is, in short, a sense of purpose and mindfulness, and the good news is that rituals can be as little as 5-15 minutes long. If you do not have time to take a full walk in nature on working days, meditating for a few moments in your garden or a local park is a wonderful alternative. Some people swear by the practice of ‘grounding’ – simply standing barefoot on grass for a few minutes.

2. Complete more of your everyday activities outdoors. Whether it is yoga, reading, working, eating meals or simply enjoying a cup of tea.

3. Grow or pick your own food. If you use social media, you’ll have probably seen friends showing off their home-grown herbs, fruits or vegetables in recent weeks. Growing your own has benefits beyond impressing your contacts list – as well as helping you connect with nature, it gives you a nurturing purpose and inspires you to try new, healthy recipes once you’ve picked your produce. If you can’t grow food in your garden, you may want to try a window box, look into allotments or book an appointment at a local pick-your-own farm.

4. Watch the stars. While the nights drawing in may seem like a shame, it provides ample opportunities for stargazing. There are many apps and websites which can help you recognise different stars but, even without these tools, simply enjoying the night sky can bring peace. Bear in mind that it takes your eyes 15-30 minutes to adjust to the dark.

5. Look for local activities. If you don’t have the time to get outdoors every day, a longer stint each week, fortnight or month can still be soothing. Depending on where you live, you may want to look into beachcombing, rambling, wild swimming or geocaching – searching for hidden items in outdoor locations with the help of an app.

6. Bring nature indoors. If the weather is simply too bad, you are busier than usual or you do not have easy access to the outdoors, don’t underestimate the benefit of simply looking outdoors from an opportune spot, growing a houseplant or looking at photos of your favourite places in nature. There are also an array of apps and playlists for nature sounds like birdsong or waves breaking. Freshly-cut flowers or burning a scented candle are a particular indulgence – but be sure to choose scented candles made with natural ingredients to reap the benefits of aromatherapy. Our previous blog will help you differentiate between natural and synthetic products.

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