Do you ever feel stressed out?
One of the least desirable things about living in a world fuelled by technology and 9-5 office jobs is that almost everybody is stressed out.
It’s one of the reasons why so many people get sick easily and lack the emotional energy to deal with pressures of life.
Between work or school and the endless stream of activities required to maintain our health, happiness, and relationships… there just isn’t enough time to relax and unwind.
My own personal observation has taught me that being stressed out makes it harder for people to reach their goals in life.
I’ve met so many people with amazing business ideas, personal goals or creative projects that never get started because they’re too stressed out to focus!
It’s a major problem that rarely gets addressed.
In these situations, I find there are surprising transformations that can happen by taking people back to basic nature awareness skills.
I’ve noticed that when modern people get back in touch with nature in a more indigenous and timeless way… it’s like turning back the dial on stress levels.
When that happens, it’s like old dusty systems in their brain get re-activated and the creative juices begin to flow again.
Research shows that even as little as 5 minutes outside can have a dramatic effect on overall health, happiness & stress levels.
Our mind & bodies are designed to operate most effectively and creatively when we spend time close to nature.
So let’s get started and release that pent up stress!
Here is the Easy Guide To Nature And Stress Relief.
How Nature Can Reduce Stress
So how does it work?
How exactly does nature reduce stress?
There are a few different levels that we can use to look at this question:
- Biological Stress (Body)
- Neurological Stress (Brain)
- Psychological Stress (Mind)
These are all different ways of talking about what stress is, what causes it, and how it works.
I’ll also explain how nature has unique solutions for each different way of looking at stress and stress relief.
#1 – The Biology of Stress
Let’s keep this simple.
Here’s the basic idea…
On a biological level, whenever you experience something stressful, there are stress hormones like cortisol that get release in your body.
These hormones have various effects and side-effects relating to your energy, mood & immune system.
They do serve a purpose in helping you navigate life successfully, but the problem comes when your stress hormones get out of balance.
It’s important to have effective ways of clearing stress hormones out of your system, so you can relax and stay balanced.
This is where the benefits of nature come into play.
Simply being outside in nature promotes positive stress relief hormones of relaxation, happiness & love.
Even things like fresh air and sunshine have a significant effect at this most basic biological level of stress.
Here’s a simple example:
- You hug a tree/ feel sun on your skin/ hear the birds chirping/ go for a hike
- You feel better
- Your system floods with feel-good hormones
- Your system clears the stress hormones
Then when you come back from being outside, you notice a difference in how you feel… even if it was just 5 minutes!
It’s that simple.
Of course, human beings are much more than just biological creatures.
And no conversation about stress would be complete without looking at the brain.
#2 – How Nature Affects The Brain And Neurological Stress
I’m a very strong believer in the power of sensory awareness.
Amazingly, a lot of mental challenges that modern people suffer from are actually classified as or co-morbid with “Sensory Processing Disorders”.
Just let that soak in for a minute. It’s pretty intense.
Challenges like ADHD, Autism, Schizophrenia, OCD & Behaviour challenges all have significant sensory components that are like a form of neurological stress.
It’s literally that the sensory parts of the brain like the visual & auditory cortex, olfactory bulb, etc are not getting enough stimulation!
Hmm. I wonder why modern people aren’t getting enough sensory stimulation?
Maybe because we live inside concrete boxes?
The treatment for this is to put people in an environment that stimulates and challenges all 5 senses in lots of different ways.
I always find that the best way to stimulate your sensory awareness is by getting outside to explore and track animals, and taste the rainbow of experiences that every forest has to offer.
The result again, is a balancing of your neurological energy, which results in clearer thinking & perception, memory improvements and improved coping skills.
#3 – Stress Psychology & Mindfulness In Nature
Let’s talk about the mind…
On the psychological level, stress is really just caused by one or two things:
- You have too many thoughts rushing through your mind creating a “busy” feeling.
- You’re thinking about things that make you nervous/anxious/stressed.
You can probably reflect on your own experience and remember times when your mind got out of control and led to a frustrating/uncomfortable experience.
Maybe it resulted in you making a bad choice.
Or maybe you just felt like crap for awhile.
It happens to everybody, but rarely do people recognize what the true cause of psychological stress actually is.
The most common thing is for people to blame outside circumstances:
- It’s because I didn’t get enough sleep
- She was just being a b!+c#
- I just can’t control my drinking on weekends
But the amazing thing is that feelings of stress can (and often do) happen even when nothing stressful is happening in the outside world.
It’s literally just the thoughts in your head that are creating an issue.
Then we make up stories to explain why we’re feeling stressed out… when really we just need a shift in mindset.
Controlling Stressful Thoughts Vs Mindfulness
Now sometimes when I share this idea with people they might get a bit discouraged and ask,
Are you saying I need to control my thoughts? Or stop thinking?”
And that’s totally not what I’m saying!
I don’t recommend you try to control your thoughts or stop the mental activity.
That approach is like trying to stop a train by jumping out in front of it.
So here’s what I recommend instead…
Just go into nature, and have a good time.
Spend time with the plants, trees, birds & sunshine… Do whatever you love to do outside, and try to forget about whatever it is you’re worried about.
It takes a leap of faith to let go and enjoy yourself… but eventually your mind will clear and you’ll feel incredibly refreshed, happy, rejuvenated and ready to take on life.
This is why so many people practice mindfulness in nature.
And why so many naturalists and wildlife trackers have a natural ability to quiet their mind.
How To Release Stress Naturally
Let’s get super practical.
I want to give you some simple steps you can follow to release stress naturally.
If you ever find that stress is taking over your life, here’s what you can do:
#1 – Cultivate Self Awareness
A lot of people don’t even recognize stress when it happens.
Part of the reason might be because everyone experiences physical, mental & emotional tension in their own unique way.
Awareness is always to the first step to making changes.
You can’t change something that’s outside of your awareness.
The principle of mindfulness states that as soon as you become aware of what’s happening, already it begins to shift and resolve.
Here are some questions to help you observe and notice your experience:
- What does stress feel like in your body?
- What does stress feel like in your mind?
- What do you habitually do when you feel stressed out?
- Is your natural inclination to eat junk food?
- Do you get angry or frustrated?
- Do you get depressed?
Stress can also come out as health problems. You might have reduced tolerance for pain during stressful periods.
In this stage, all you have to do is pay attention.
Don’t try to change anything yet.
Just identify your own behavior & emotional patterns.
Then you can decide what you want to change, and take steps to re-design your lifestyle.
#2 – Decide What You Want To Change
Once you’ve identified some common patterns in your own life, now the next step is simply to decide what you want to do differently.
This is what I don’t want, so how do I want to be different?
Then you can use your own emotional and behavioural patterns to trigger the changes you want to make.
If the pattern has to do with an emotion… You can use that emotion as a trigger that reminds you to take some action.
For example: Whenever I start to get angry… I’m going to go outside and sit on the grass for 10 minutes.
If the pattern has to do with a behavior like over-eating, or drinking… Identify the moment when the thought enters your mind, and use it as a trigger to go outside instead.
That first moment the idea of having a drink pops into my mind… I’m going to go outside and walk mindfully to my sit spot in the park.
It does take a bit of practice and will-power.
Don’t expect yourself to be perfect with this the first time you try.
But with practice you can build new habits that serve you much more effectively.
The next 2 steps will help you do this even more effortlessly.
#3 – Simplify Your Lifestyle
One of the main reasons people have unbearable stress is because they’re trying to do too much.
I think people commonly underestimate how much focus & attention it takes to really do things well.
They also dramatically underestimate the benefits of doing things well as compared to simply getting things done for the sake of being busy.
There’s a tendency to focus on quantity of action, rather than quality.
The reality is that many of the things you do on a daily, weekly or monthly basis, are not the highest use of your time.
Maybe they served you well at an earlier time in life… but that’s no longer who you are.
The 80/20 principle states that 80% of your positive results & growth will come from just 20% of your time, effort and attention.
That means 80% of everything you do is an almost complete waste of time.
It’s much better to let go of the old. And re-invest that time in activities that rejuvenate you.
Do you have activities, friends, commitments that served you in the past, but which no longer serve you?
Start with just one or two of the big ones and let them go!
#4 – Plan Time To Rejuvenate
People often feel a lot of blame and judgment if they start spending adequate time rejuvenating.
If you take time to lie outside in the sunshine every afternoon and listen to birds, people might start to think, “that person never works!”
But the reality is that you’ll produce much better quality of work when you feel deeply rested and rejuvenated.
Most people have forgotten what it actually feels like to be deeply rested & rejuvenated.
This is a much more pre-emptive way of dealing with stress.
Sometimes it’s just too difficult to interrupt an emotion or behaviour pattern that you’ve been doing your whole life.
If you wait until you’re a 10/10 on the stressed-out-scale… it’s going to take a lot more down-time to get back to health.
Take a more pre-emptive approach to stress management by planning rejuvenation time in nature before the problem even arises.
The simplest way to get maximum rejuvenation for the least amount of effort, is to get outside and cultivate deep attunement with nature.
This website is filled with resources to help you along the way.
I’m confident you’ll discover a rewarding and life-changing journey.
Final Thoughts & Action Steps
I’d like to leave you with a list of 20 tips to help you experience the benefits of nature and stress relief.
These are in no particular order. It’s just a brainstorm of ideas to help along the journey 🙂
- Remember that everyone is different: Don’t compare yourself to others who seem to be ahead of you. You have your own journey.
- Experiment: Try lots of different things. Nature has so many different activities to offer from wildlife tracking, to weather watching & star gazing.
- Notice what best works for you: You might find that there are particular activities that really clear out the stress. Identify those activities and do them often.
- Be gentle with yourself: Remember that everyone gets stressed out at times. It is a normal part of life so you’ll probably never eliminate it 100%.
- Pay attention to your feelings: Feelings are your best guide to notice when you need some quiet time outside.
- Focus on Awareness: Don’t get too wrapped up in your thoughts when you go outside. Use your eyes, ears, nose & senses to observe.
- Be Patient: Big changes don’t come overnight. But they do eventually come if you keep moving forward.
- Increase your time in nature: I can’t over-stress just how much of a difference simply being outside really does make.
- Adopt a Sit Spot: This is a place close to home where you go regularly to sit and be present with birds, trees, plants, wildlife
- Practice Sense Meditation: Sit down somewhere and cycle through your senses. I explained the process in my article about sensory awareness exercises.
- Make sure you’re getting enough sleep: Sleep has a huge effect on your ability to release stress.
- Research Magnesium Supplements: Sometimes magnesium deficiency can affect the bodies ability to get a restful sleep and remove stress hormones.
- Eat Wild Foods: they supply your body with the nutrition it needs to stay optimized much better than commercial agriculture.
- Cultivate Positive Relationships: Find people who support your decision to improve your life. Take them out for hot drinks and talk about what you’re learning.
- Find a Mentor: Look for someone who is ahead of you on the journey. They don’t have to be an expert.
- Explore Bird Language: The skill of bird language is particularly suited to awakening the senses and helping people access deep states of rejuvenating meditation in nature
- Learn to see the beauty in nature: Approach nature with a sense of awe & reverence for the delicate balance of life.
- Offer Gratitude & Appreciation: being grateful helps to focus the mind on positive things. You can’t be grateful & stressed at the same time.
- Look through the eyes of a child: Most children haven’t lost their innate passion & excitement to explore freely & bask in the joys of nature. If you struggle to open up, try joining their world for awhile
- Keep going no matter what: Life can be discouraging sometimes. There will always be challenges and frustrations, but you are always capable of more than what you’ve done up till now… even when it doesn’t seem true!