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The Healing Power of Nature: Stop and Smell the Roses

The Healing Power of Nature: Stop and Smell the Roses

Spring and summer offer me the opportunity to connect with myself through the beauty and magic of my garden. I find gardening and being in my garden to be a form of meditation, as long as I take a moment to be present and enjoy the experience of co-creating with nature.

Healing Through Connecting with Nature

I remember reading an article in the Globe and Mail that affirmed my own experience of the healing power of nature. It was about the growing “eco-therapy movement”, where people find healing by going on wilderness retreats. Studies have confirmed that ‘nature therapy’ can effectively combat depression, reduce anxiety and stress, and help people to find a sense of peace by connecting with their surroundings in nature. The key word here is “connecting”, where it’s not enough to just go for a walk in the woods while listening to your latest playlist, but requires one to really take the time to consciously notice and be impacted by their surroundings.

My contact with my garden reminds me that, though we may not be able to go off on regular wilderness retreats, we can still find ways to experience nature’s healing effects right in our own back yard, balcony or neighborhood park. Years ago, while working in the corporate world in downtown Toronto, I knew where all of the little parks and green spaces were, (and there are many), where I could escape from the phones and find stillness on my lunch break. It became an effective stress busting practice for me.

Mindfulness through Nature

Allowing nature to usher us into the present moment, can become a form of mindfulness practice, which offers us many benefits to our physical and mental health. Mindfulness involves the focusing of attention and awareness on the present moment. Mindful attention activates the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS), which acts to calm the sympathetic nervous system (fight or flight response). An activated PNS quiets the mind, creates feelings of inner peace and tranquility, while reducing stress and it’s negative affects on the body. Mindfulness also allows us to develop a “witness” perspective to our experience, which encourages openness, curiosity and acceptance.

There are many ways to use the sights, sounds and smells of nature to combat stress and restore balance. Gazing on the beauty and intricacy of a flower, or the stately power of a tree, the sounds of birds or the wind or moving water, all require a kind of stillness which encourages us to stop and observe. Colour and fragrance are powerful healing tools that can be found right in your own back yard. I use the colours of flowers to balance and stimulate my energy system, which has an energizing and clearing affect. The fragrances of flowers and herbs become your own Aromatherapy kit and can help to lift your spirits or calm your nerves while bringing you into presence. I enjoy the intoxicating fragrance of my honeysuckle vine, the soothing scents of lavender and lemon balm or the earthy stimulating effects of rosemary, sage or thyme. I can often be found wandering around my garden rubbing leaves between my fingers and deeply inhaling the essential oils.

So, the next time you walk by a cedar hedge, pull off a small leaf, rub it between your fingers and enjoy the uplifting yet grounding effects of its earthy scent. Allow this simple act to shift you into the present moment where peace and stillness awaits.

Take time to stop and smell the roses.

By David Scammell

Psychotherapist