The past few weeks have been very confusing and overwhelming for many of us as our daily routines have shifted and we are finding new ways to occupy our time. Here at NRT’s Sheep Pasture, it has brought our employees such joy to see community members embrace the property and take advantage of the trails and farm animals in these uncertain times. Whether you are out and about or enjoying the comfort of your own backyard, it is great to see people taking in the natural world around them.
As more and more community members take time away from work and gain an opportunity to spend a few extra moments in nature, many of you will begin to feel something happening to your body. It may start small for some of you, or perhaps some of you will become overwhelmed by it immediately, but the research shows that most everyone will feel some sense of calmness after spending even just a little bit of time in a green space.
Although many of you may be experiencing this for the first time, as there has been added necessity to find moments of peace in lieu of current events, people have been embracing the mental health benefits of spending time in nature for centuries. And it’s not just a sense of calmness that we have to gain! Spending time in nature can help reduce stress, anxiety, and depression and has even been observed to help people with mood disorders feel less overwhelmed.
According to a 2017 TIME magazine article, the benefits gained from taking time in nature come with pretty much any healthy green space. This means that you don’t need to drive two hours to the ocean, or hike a difficult trail to feel as though you’ve cleared your mind. Green spaces can be coastlines or dense wooded areas, but soccer fields, local parks, and even your own backyard can work as well! In a 2015 study, researchers found that people who participated in a nature walk for 90 minutes, rather than an urban walk, had lower activity in their prefrontal cortex, which is an area of the brain that is used when having repetitive thoughts that focus on negative emotions. It is quite satisfying to know that there is a substantial pool of scientific evidence to support that feeling of calmness and reduced anxiety after being outside.
One great way to reconnect with the natural world is by creating a nature journal, or having a personal space to enhance your relationship with the outdoors. Much like a regular journal, you record your thoughts, feelings, ideas, activities and observations with the focus being on the natural world around you. These recordings can be guided with prompts, or simply what comes to mind at any given moment. Because of the flexibility of a nature journal, it is a great way for individuals and families to get outside and look at the world around them through a slightly different lens.
You might be thinking, this all sounds great, but how do I even start a nature journal? It’s simple! All you need is a piece of paper and a writing utensil. Each time you journal, you can document your findings on a new sheet of paper, or you can dedicate an entire notebook to nature journaling. Whatever works best for you! As far as deciding what to put in your journal, there are many wonderful resources online that provide prompts and encourage us to look at the things we are seeing in nature from a different perspective.
Some of our favorite online resources for nature journaling are:
Attached to this blog post is a starter nature journal to guide you if you or a family member are just beginning your nature journaling journey. The wonderful thing about nature journaling is that it can be done inside or outside depending on the weather and how you are feeling. Before venturing outdoors, you may want to start your journal by looking out a window of your house, or observing an indoor plant that’s been sitting in your living room for years. Wherever you choose to begin, you will soon find yourself looking at the world around you with a whole new appreciation!
NRT's dedicated staff are responsible for the content of the NatureTalk blog. Questions? For more information on any blog post, please contact us at any time.