We’ve all heard the phrase, “stop and smell the roses.” I often use our difficulty noticing the beauty around us, such as flowers or animals, as an example of how we get caught up in the busyness of daily life and miss important aspects of our surroundings. Learning to be mindful is a key goal of therapy, and it often helps us develop an appreciation and gratitude for nature as well!
And it turns out that a study published in the Journal of Positive Psychology appears to confirm the benefits that nature has on our mental health. This will come as no surprise to those people who enjoy camping, fishing, or the beach. I’ve always felt like there was just something about being surrounded by nature that seemed to help release tension and the pressures of the modern world. I was excited to see this innate feeling backed up by actual evidence.
Attuning to Nature
The study broke participants into two groups that focused on either natural or man-made objects. The nature group asked subjects to document how they reacted as they encountered nature throughout their day. They were encouraged to photograph natural objects that captured their attention, whether they were plants in the office, grass poking through sidewalk cracks, or a stroll through the park.
The other group of participants focused on noticing man-made objects. It seems like this group had it a little easier as I can notice probably 100 man-made objects as I sit at my desk writing this article!
Of course, the question was whether there were benefits of being mindful in general, or if there was a noticeable difference in the effects of focusing on either man-made or natural objects. Between the two groups, a comparison was made regarding happiness, sense of elevation, and level of connectedness to other people.
Researchers found that the subjects who paid attention to their natural surroundings experienced significant elevations across the board in the group that paid attention to natural objects! In fact, as few as five minutes of being attuned to nature was enough to show benefits.
What does this mean for you?
We live in a beautiful area with Clearwater Beach being one of the top-rated beaches in the country right in our neighborhood. Taking time to visit the beach or a local park (our family loves Wall Springs) is easy self-care that can help you cope with daily stressors.
We haven’t been yet, but I’m hoping to take the girls camping down at Fort Desoto State Park. Can you really beat camping at the beach?
Other great things the study found are that it didn’t take hours to reap the benefits, so you don’t have the excuse of not getting enough vacation days. In fact, even those who spent time attending to natural objects indoors experienced improvements.
This means you can focus on a plant in your office, look at green space or the sun outside your window, or even notice a dandelion growing where it shouldn’t be possible. When you take time to notice it, you’d be surprised at the amount of nature that surrounds us.
If you’re having a particularly stressful day, clearing five minutes may seem like an impossible task. But I wonder what would happen if you experimented and monitored what happened if you tried. Many people are shocked at how restorative it can be to clear our cluttered brains and just notice the beauty around us.
I’d encourage you to spare a few minutes today to notice and embrace the beauty of nature that surrounds us. If you’ve ever felt you needed a good excuse to tell the boss that you were taking a short break for a walk outside, consider this your doctor’s note. I’d love to hear feedback on your experiences with this new sense of attention to nature!
And if you’re ready to chat about how therapy might help you find better ways to cope with the anxiety or stress, please don’t hesitate to reach out!