My childhood summers were filled with outdoor adventure in the mountains, hills, and creek behind my grandparents’ home in rural New York State. Not all of it was fun, especially being chased by two older brothers toting snakes, crayfish, frogs and insects, who had the intention of scaring me to death.
Despite the countless memories of the teasing and difficulty keep up with older brothers, I nonetheless have a deep connection to those mountains, hills, and slow flowing creek that all hold a special place in my heart. I was truly blessed to have the opportunity to grow up near the ocean in sunny South Florida and spend my summers in the country of Western NY.
I know from experience that nature can have a profound effect on calming the nervous system and reducing stress. My peaceful place continues to be my mother’s home nestled in the mountains and trees of Ellicottville, New York. Almost immediately upon arriving I can feel the tension drain from my body, as my shoulders drop several inches and all my worries and ruminations seem to just fall away.
I am the least physically active in my family so when everyone else heads out to hike, fish, ski or do the ropes course at a nearby mountain, I am content to sit on the deck listening to nature and taking in the sights and smells of the forest of trees surrounding the home.
I know in my body what nature does for me and instead of just waiting for those rare vacations in nature I am setting an intention to weave into my life some shorter bouts of nature bathing. And in the interest of learning more about the science behind how nature effects humans, I took to reading The Nature Fix, by Florence Williams.
The idea that nature can positively impact us was clearly not new to me, yet the idea of learning a bit about how research has finally caught up with anecdotal evidence I have gathered over the years is appealing to me as a psychologist, as I am always looking for ways to support people in healing and wellness.
In the Nature Fix, the author sets out to various places in the world where researchers have been active in collecting data on the effects of nature on human brains, and exploring the factors that contribute to positive effects.
What is responsible for the changes the researchers are finding? Is it the trees? The fresh air? The effects of exercise? The absence of technology? or just simply being on vacation and taking a break from daily routines?
One of the people Florence connected with was Ken Sanders, who recognized a profound shift by day three in groups he took on rafting trips in Utah, subsequently coining the term, The Three Day Effect. He teamed up with David Strayer, a neuroscientist, at the University of Utah to conduct research on what Sanders was observing trip after trip. Some of their conclusions are shared in the book, among so much more remarkable insights gleaned by other researchers across several continents. You can also check out the podcast 3-day effectby Florence if you prefer to listen rather than read.
Tips from the experts on ways to start getting back into nature.
- Try to go one weekend a month to a natural area
- Visit a park once a week
- Get your hands dirty and garden
- Walk under trees
- Go to the ocean, lake, river, stream, or pond
Stay tuned to learn more about the findings from research as we continue this month to bring our mindfulness practice out into nature and interview some bad ass nature loving guides and share some tips on social media.
If you are a local South Floridian, you can join us at the Delray Community Garden on Friday mornings for an 8:30am guided meditation or you can enroll in our 8 week virtual (for now) mindfulness-based nature program starting June 12th and offered by the Sacred Treehouse and coming this fall a 12 week Eco-Therapy group specifically focused on supporting healing from trauma.
Sitting outside, sensing the warmth of the sun on my face, the sounds of singing birds, the audible exhalation of Riley, our yellow lab, and taking in my view of all the palm trees and all of a sudden- a bird flies down from the roof top and lands on some of my husbands fishing debris. Yes I looked up and paused to take it all in and I even noticed a great big smile emerge from simply observing this precious creature stretch her wings. I could feel that smile radiate from my lips, to my chest, heart, and all the way down into my tummy.
May each of you take some time to stretch your wings out in nature.
With Love and Gratitude,
Patty and The Sacred Treehouse faculty
Join our facebook group above to learn more and share your experiences with a community of likeminded people walking the path of mindful living.
Need support in overcoming obstacles? Just email me us at firstname.lastname@example.org to set up individualized mindfulness coaching or join our upcoming classes of MBSR or MSC for guided practices in a supportive community.
Go to www.sacredtreehouse.org
Patty Thomas Shutt, founder of Sacred Treehouse, is a licensed psychologist and co-owner of Therapeutic Oasis of the Palm Beaches. Dr. Shutt is passionate about helping others discover the benefits of mindfulness and meditation. She offers Beginner Meditation & Advanced Meditation classes at Sacred Treehouse, in addition to Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction, Mindful Self-Compassion and various book studies throughout the year.