9 ways to work wonders on your stress levels
How reconnecting with nature can heal the stresses of modern life and rejuvenate your every day
By Sarah Ivens
When I’m tired, wrought, or worried about something (real or imagined), I turn to Mother Nature. Embracing the great outdoors, whatever the weather, unfailingly brings a sense of awe and gratitude, and coats me warmly with a sense of calm – even on a dull February morning when I have a thousand niggles flying around my brain and a long to-do list waiting for me in my office. I’m not alone. A recent study of 20,000 published in Scientific Reports concluded that spending just two hours per week in nature, in short stints or in one epic engagement, is enough to boost mental health and wellbeing. Spending time amongst the trees does everything from reduce blood pressure, depression, and anxiety, to improving sleep, creativity and energy. Writing yourself a green prescription is the prettiest, easiest way to address the stresses of modern life. But how can you fit more forest into your already busy week?
1. Notice your surroundings
Meditate on how Mother Nature moves and changes as you wait for the kettle to boil in the morning. What shapes are the clouds making? What colours are the leaves turning? Studies show a brain observing nature is more open to reflect, wander and be creative.
2. Look at a green scene
Research shows that even looking at pictures of nature reduces mental fatigue and increases positive thinking. Switch your phone lock screen and laptop screensaver image to your favourite nature photo, frame artwork from beloved beauty spots, and buy yourself a nature-themed colouring book. Just looking at a green scene decreases the stress-related hormones cortisol and adrenaline, which helps us to calm down.
3. Take Mindful pursuits outside
If your mind is fizzing too much for daydreaming or meditating, take other mindful pursuits outside. Find a quiet, pretty spot and draw what you see, do some yoga stretches, or make notes in your gratitude journal. Wrap up warm and go for a walk with a friend in silence, using your five senses and keeping the conversation at bay until you’ve made it to your end point. Quiet contemplation under a canopy of trees - it is scientifically proven – restores focus and attention span.
"a true Forest Bath boosts medicinal benefits"
4. Focus on small details from the natural world
Focusing on small details from the natural world not only helps you think more creatively, above all, it enables our brains to switch off from work worries. So keep plants on your desk, treat yourself to a bunch of flowers for your bedside at weekends, hang air plants in your bathroom – these little nods to nature will boost general happiness and allow you to switch mental gears.
5. Take a warm bath
A warm bath soothes muscles, induces comfort, relieves cold symptoms and helps us sleep better and adding woody essential oils (Cypress and Juniper Berry are my favourites!) to the water for a true ‘forest bath’ boosts the medicinal benefits. Studies show valuable antibacterial, antifungal chemicals emitted by trees called phytoncides make their way into the bottles of good quality oils, which of course Aromatherapy Associates ‘Forest Therapy’ blend – produced with only the purest botanical, raw ingredients – is a stellar example of… or tree-mendous example, I should say. This blend of 22 calming, magical oils fills your bathroom with the scent of fresh forest air, a sense of relief and release filling your soul with every inhalation. Similarly, reading in the bath is also a great way to soak away your stresses, see my post on The Best Bathtub Reads for recommendations.
6. Become Dr. Doolittle
Winter is when birds really need human help, so invest in a bird feeder and good quality food to hang on your balcony or in your garden (some bird feeder inspiration for you), investigating what is best for the birds in your area and your commitment level. Daily interactions with wildlife will remind you to feel awe and thankfulness that you are part of something bigger than yourself.
Instead of sitting in an airless, grey conference room, take your work meetings outside into a park near your office. Studies show concentration and creativity both improve when work decisions are made outdoors. So, don’t meet a friend for a chat in a noisy, packed coffee shop – grab your coffee to go and walk for an hour instead – you’ll be able to focus on your conversation more, and get the feel-good endorphins from moving your body, too.
"However chilly it is outside, don't hide away and forget how energising and powerful connecting with nature really can be"
8. Bring the outside into your office
Counteract the stale environment – and god forbid, attitudes – with a regular mist of Aromatherapy Associates ‘Forest Therapy’ Wellness Mist: close your eyes and inhale deeply as the natureful scents of Pink Pepper, Cypress, Ho Wood - and more! - invigorate your senses. This simple, one-minute boost will refresh you enough to get you through the afternoon slump.
9. Turn your fingers green with some inside gardening
Horticultural therapy is real and even indoors in the colder months, the benefits of growing and nourishing plants from cuttings and creating new life inspires mindfulness and contentment. Spider plants and succulents flourish all year round – or make the most of the winter sun and turn a bright windowsill into an indoor herb or tomato garden. If you want to get outdoors, rent an allotment space, join a gardening club or volunteer to look after your local park. The sense of community will boost your wellness – acts of service and being outside is a win-win for mental health.
Why not create your own Forest Bathing experience at home?
Our Forest Therapy Bath & Shower Oil is the perfect blend to transport you into the sensorial healing experience of a forest. Simply add a capful of Forest Therapy Bath & Shower oil into warm bath water and let the natural essential oils work their magic.
Sarah Ivens, is the author of Forest Therapy: Seasonal Ways to Embrace Nature for a Happier You (Piatkus)