6AM wake up call. Quick shower, breakfast and you’re out the door to school or work. Now you spend the next 8 hours indoors looking at blackboards, computer screens and iPhones. Then you come home, do your school work, work around the house, make dinner and if you’re lucky- maybe squeeze in a quick session at the gym.
It is understandable why so many of us suffer from mental fatigue and lack of concentration throughout the work week.
Have you ever felt like you just needed to go for a 5-minute walk between classes, or go for a walk to grab a coffee as a study break? Do you then notice a shift in your mood or attention afterwards?
There’s a reason for this.
Nature has a magical healing power. The trees and forests are a gift to us all which helps improve our health and happiness
They can boost our memory, concentration, and creativity2. Forests can also improve our self-esteem, stress levels, and mood.2 The benefits of the natural world also extends throughout our body, improving cardiovascular health, pain management, sleeping habits and even boost our immune system.3
While the trees and forest show great benefits to improving our mental health, statistics show that Canadians are not getting outside as much as they should be.
According to the Coleman Canada Outdoor Report in 2017, 29% of Canadians reported spending less than 30 minutes outdoors per week. Plus, 64% of respondents said they spend less than 2 hours outdoors per week. This means only 7% of respondents acknowledged spending more than an average 20 minutes outside each day. Yet, 98% of respondents agreed that spending time outside improves well-being.
This leaves us to believe that many of you may also recognize the importance of nature. However, by leading such busy lives, you may struggle to find ways to get out as often as you might like. Or maybe you have the time but don’t know where to start?
We have outlined some options below. We encourage you to try the one that best suits you :) .
Now we know what you may be thinking..."but it's cold outside!" Sadly yes, the warm summer days are behind us. But that's ok. Fall and winter can still bring many beautiful days. You just have to approach the colder seasons with an open mind (and warmer clothes) ! If you're planning to stop and sit, consider bringing your favourite blanket and warmest socks! If you are walking, maybe snowshoes and a hat could help? By embracing the season in front of you, you may be surprised with what can happen. Who knows, maybe you will find a new favourite season?
This is not meant to be a run or a hike, but rather a slow mindful experience. Go somewhere familiar, somewhere you can leave your phone behind. Disconnect from all technology and reconnect with mother nature. Keep your senses open. Smell the fresh air and the flowers you see. Take notice of the trees towering over you and the moss or grass below you. How does it feel? Is the tree bark smooth or rough? Is the ground soft? Dry?
You do not need to walk far. In fact, there should not be a physical destination in mind, but rather a mindful one. If you can, stay at least 20 minutes, or until you feel a shift in your mood or mental state.
If you have ever done yoga, you have likely noticed a shift in your mental state almost immediately. Yoga does not need to be done over the course of an hour to begin reaping its benefits. Even five minutes can make you feel more relaxed. Find a park nearby with some soft, level grass, ideally with trees surrounding you. Practice your favourite poses. Maybe over time you can develop a sequence of poses you can do.
Need help with poses? Yoga instructor Maureen has detailed some techniques you can practice here.
Another option is to simply sit on the ground and check in with your senses. Be in the moment. Notice what you see. Now close your eyes. What do you hear? Do you feel the grass below you? Cycle through all that you experience for as long as you are comfortable.
Some days, our hour lunch break is all we can afford to dedicate to ourselves. That’s ok. However, it is important to take this time for yourself. Studying can wait. Instagram can certainly wait. Find somewhere nice outside. Somewhere that is ideally away from the hussle and bussle, and the noise of traffic. If you can, bring some calming music with you. Bring your lunch and enjoy the beautiful world that is right outside your window.
Once again, check in with your senses. What music did you decide to listen to? How is it making you feel? The food you brought, does it bring you joy or leave you feeling nourished and content? How many trees surround you? Can you name any of them? Try the best you can to stay away from technology and be present in the moment.
This can be done by simply choosing a parking spot furthest from where you are going. Or, if you take the bus, give yourself ten extra minutes and walk to the next or a couple bus stops closer to your destination. While you’re doing so, take in the scenery. Try and see if you can ignore the car horns and the sirens. Instead, can you hear the birds or the wind? Notice every step you take.
Fill your home, office or bedroom with plants. Not only do they look and smell beautiful, they improve the air we breathe and provide more oxygen to the room. Plus, throughout the day they absorb the carbon dioxide that we exhale.
Fun fact: most plants stop releasing oxygen and absorbing toxins at night. Luckily, plants such as Orchids, Snake Plants, Succulents and Gerbera Daisies continue to clean our air and enrich it with oxygen, even after the sun has set.
This makes them excellent choices to keep in your bedroom to help you sleep. Gerbera Daisies have even been suggested to improve sleep apnea.
Did you know that some trees can be brought indoors? These can be as small as Bonsai trees or as large as Fiddle Leaf Fig Trees and Dragon Trees. Research the different trees available in your area and find one that fits your style!
Plants aren't your style but you still want clean, fresh air? Why not try beeswax candles instead! By burning beeswax, you are release negative ions into the air. These ions attach themselves to polutants such as dust and bacteria, and drop them out of the air.
You can also bring the smell of the outdoors in. This can be done through natural soy candles or diffusers and essential oils. Look for eucalyptus, lavender, pine, cedar or any other outdoor smells you enjoy. You can use wood shavings such as cedarwood. Or, if you want to go one step further, you can hang some cedar wood up in your room or even make your walls out of cedar planks.
Do not feel you need to make all of these changes right away. Just like in every other aspect in life, change takes time. Don’t try and rush it. Take the time to find what works best for you and slowly implement it into your life.
Need more information? Check out these resources: