How I found peace and hope in nature

As a distance-education student with various other commitments, reconnecting with nature through walks and contemplation has done wonders for Andreea's mental health. This #MentalHealthAwarenessWeek, get inspired to #ConnectWithNature.

Written by Andreea S. |

Sunset over a lake
"I try to be among living, breathing things as often as I can. I try to be mindful, to be in the moment. I slow down."

You’re studying a distance learning programme. But if you’re anything like me, studying is not all you do.

In fact, the reason you probably chose to get an education this way is because you are already juggling a bunch of other commitments: work, social life, family…keeping up with the demands of a university programme on top of everything else is no easy task. It can take its toll.

Rest assured, we’ve all been there. Many of us have struggled with exhaustion, boredom or lack of motivation. Especially at times like this – when the pandemic has upended so many routines and made it impossible for us to find comfort in social gatherings. It can all feel pretty overwhelming.

Looking after your mental health is paramount, especially in the current climate. Spending time in nature could be an ideal way to reconnect with reality. It certainly has been for me! Over the past year or so, I have found that one of the best ways to relax, stay fit and balance my moods has been spending as much time as possible outdoors.

I live in South-East Germany, near the banks of the River Inn and next to a patch of woods, where I go for daily walks. I aim for about three miles each day, but I don’t set a clear target. I amble, I contemplate. It’s amazing. Reconnecting with nature can have so many benefits: the relaxing effect of the colour green on the human psyche, the fresh air, exercise and the improved blood flow, and the restorative effect of natural light. Not to mention the gentle rustling of leaves, which always inspires me to put my thoughts in order and come up with that next great idea or simply reminisce.

Without these walks, I would have had no idea that we share the neighbourhood with egrets, swans, bees, geese, beavers and even water turtles. Reconnecting with nature has allowed me to witness first-hand the spellbinding changing of seasons and to enjoy quiet time by myself when it’s been hectic around the house. Nature has a calming effect on me, although it’s never boring. There is always something happening. Things are constantly in motion or in a process of transformation. There is always something to explore.

I have also found human connection in nature. People walking their dogs, jogging, canoeing or enjoying a quiet conversation. Giggling children. Grandparents with cute babies. Countless ways to take my mind off things and recalibrate.

Ok, I get it. I am fortunate. Not everyone lives in a rural area surrounded with nature and a stunning view of the Alps. But even a small pond, the local park or a stroll up and down your street admiring other people’s gardens can work wonders. I have done this numerous times when the trail by the river was too muddy or impractical. The back of your house, the outskirts of your city. A friend’s backyard. Any change of scenery that involves a clean, green and quiet environment with a piece of sky can do a great job of recharging your batteries.

I try to be among living, breathing things as often as I can. I try to be mindful, to be in the moment. I slow down. I breathe. I rub my hand against the bark of a tree and notice the details. It’s incredible how alive that makes me feel.
If you’ve been feeling stuck, take your eyes off that computer screen and let them gaze into the distance. You might see the solution. You might get an insight. Your creative juices might start to flow again. You might feel invigorated. In my experience, there is always something fascinating happening in the sky. There is always some novelty on the horizon, some light at the end of the tunnel, some silver lining in a storm.

So, go out into the sun! Get that vitamin D and those endorphins! Touch a leaf and notice how it feels between your fingers. Look up at the treetops and enjoy the shadow of their canopy on your body. Feel the texture of wood, stone or fruit peel. Treat yourself to more colour. Enjoy sensory experiences that involve natural, organic materials. Listen to the birds chirping, shrieking or whatever it is they do in your region! Listen to the buzzing of insects. Smell a flower.

Find your own personal Eden. If you’re anything like me, you will feel so much better.

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