Survivor blog: How do you cope?

Rest is not idleness, and to lie sometimes on the grass under the trees on a summer's day, listening to the murmur of water, or watching the clouds float across the blue sky, is by no means waste of time.’ John Lubbock (b1894), The Use of Life.

 

"How do you cope?" It’s a question I get asked a lot.

Time spent in nature has proved one of the most meaningful activities to help me cope with the emotional and mental health impact of life changing trauma.

We all, no doubt, have felt the need to get away from things or escape for a period of time to recharge our mental batteries. We seem to know that time spent in green space is just what the doctor ordered. We all know how a good walk in a park or forest feels, or to sit beside a river and watch its flow, or to just stroll for in a local park. Each can help us feel at ease and clear our heads. Time spent in and with nature just feels right and good.

Research backs up our feelings that when we visit green spaces we move into a state of mind called effortless attention. Evidence from studies around the world show that time spent in nature leads to more relaxed brain wave activity. Feelings of anxiety, frustration and depression reduce as we find relief from stress and mental fatigue. It would seem green spaces, even a view out of a hospital window onto a garden area, can all help people cope and manage better. 1

These studies back up a theory called soft fascination proposed by Rachel and Steven Kaplan. In their book, The Experience of Nature: A Psychological Perspective, they talk about the restorative experience of nature. 2 They describe how time spent in nature's soft fascination allows us to enter into a state of effortless attention. The restorative experience of effortless attention can leave us feeling refreshed and re-energized.

The Kaplan's work and that of others echoes research into the benefits of a popular activity enjoyed by people in Japan called Shinrin-yoku or forest bathing. 3 People travel to Shinrin-yoku trails located in pine forests where they walk and enjoy the beautiful scenery while they breath in the heady pine scented air. It has received increasing attention by researchers into its therapeutic benefit to reduce stress and promote well-being.

I well remember my walks to certain secluded spots in the Yorkshire Dales to take time out from the rigours of my therapeutic work with traumatized children. Time in those beautiful surroundings offered an essential balm for my soul so I could return to work with a clear head and calm heart.

As I recovered from my accident I took every opportunity to spend some time in nature. Even the hospital garden, At first, with the help of my family, friends, and colleagues, that all important support again, I'd wheel myself down in my wheelchair to my local park to feed the ducks beside the river and relax in the fresh air. Each visit helped restore my emotional health and wellbeing. 4

As I gained more mobility and I began to walk again my visits took on an even more important role as the restorative experience of nature helped to sustain me through some very tough times.

I know mustering the energy to get out can feel like an uphill battle. That's when a little encouragement from someone else can make all the difference. Sometimes we need help crossing the threshold to a fresh horizon. Having people to support you , be they family, friends, or a professional person, can be a real boon.

So if you can get out when you can. Share the experience with someone else. Take notice of what you see, hear, and feel. A little each day can make such a positive difference over time.

 

References

  1. https://blog.wellcome.ac.uk/2013/11/08/why-every-hospital-should-have-a-garden/
  1. Rachel Kaplan & Stephen Kaplan. The Experience of Nature: A Psychological Perspective. Cambridge University Press: 1989.
  1. http://www.outsideonline.com/1870381/take-two-hours-pine-forest-and-call-me-morning?page=all
  1. http://www.fivewaystowellbeing.org/ - find out more about wellbeing and five simple things you can do to boost.

 

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