How do you feel when you return home from a day or weekend of hiking, kayaking, camping, skiing, and being in nature? I feel relaxed, rejuvenated, an inner warmth; grateful for my body to have supported me to hike that challenging trail or to ski those moguls.
While in nature I am in awe of its beauty and at times the amazing stillness. I feel so relaxed and connected with what is around me.
There is more and more research about the benefits of being in nature and the negative impacts of not.
Richard Louv in his book “Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder” (2005) coined the term Nature-Deficit Disorder. He has documented research on the negative impacts of children not spending time in nature including: attention difficulties, diminished use of the senses, obesity, and higher rates of emotional and physical illnesses. Research also suggests that the nature-deficit weakens children’s appreciation of and stewardship of the natural world.
“More recent research shows that the steady stress of urban living changes the brain in ways that can increase our odds of schizophrenia, anxiety and mood disorders .”
The positive impacts on health and well-being of spending time in nature have been well documented. Examples include the Japanese practice of “forest bathing” or “forest therapy”. Having set up forest bathing centers in a number of areas throughout Japan and conducting longitudinal studies for several decades, the Japanese have discovered that spending time among trees reduces your heart rate, reduces your blood pressure and increases the number of natural killer cells our bodies produce (i.e. strengthens our immune systems).
South Korea has implemented a National Forest Plan whose goal is “to realize a green welfare state, where the entire nation enjoys well-being”. They speak about “social forestry” and have initiated a number of programs and studies including: walking in hinoki forests, doing guided meditations, and special programs for everyone from cancer patients to prenatal groups, to children with allergies, to a forest healing program for fire fighters with PTSD.
I’m currently reading The Nature Fix by Florence Williams, a journalist who moved with her family from a quiet home in Colorado surrounded by nature to a noisy downtown Washington, DC home on a major flight path. She was so shaken by the negative impact of the move she decided to learn more about nature and its benefits. The book is a fun and interesting read as Florence flies to different countries, takes part in research, speaks to researchers and experiences first-hand a variety of “therapies”.
Given these powerful findings, how can you in your busy and sometimes stressful life incorporate more time in nature? Here are a few suggestions:
- Go for a walk in nature at least three times a week for 15 to 30 minutes ideally in a park where there are trees. You can do this at lunch time if you are close to a park.
- Join a hiking group and go hiking several times a month.
- Go camping with family, friends or a group.
- Find a special place close to where you live (if possible) where you can go that makes you feel relaxed. For me that is on some rocks by the ocean about 15 minutes walk from where I live.
- Take your kids to the park at the end of each work day. Spend 20 to 30 minutes “decompressing” and focusing on having fun and connecting with your children.
- Do mindfulness walking meditations outdoors for 15 to 30 minutes three times a week.
- Do meditations that incorporate nature sounds once a day. I find Deepak and Oprah’s 21-day meditations (available from https://chopracentermeditation.com/) really helpful and do these every morning on awakening.
I’d love to hear how you feel when in nature and what strategies you’ve found helpful to increase your time in nature. Feel free to share this article with others.
 Williams, Florence, The Nature Fix – Why Nature Makes Us Happier, Healthier, and More Creative. New York: W.W. Norton, 2017.
 A mindfulness walking meditation enables you to get out of your head and into your body. When you walk outside in nature, slowly press one heal and the toes of one foot on the ground followed by the next, being totally present with your movements rather than thinking about all you have to do or reviewing a recent argument with your child or significant other. Focus on all of your senses. Notice the wind on your cheek, the sound of birds chirping, the smell of the salt sea air, see the beautiful vistas that surround you. Notice how you feel while doing the mindfulness walking meditations and after. Over time doing these walking meditations on a regular basis, notice what you notice.
My husband and I recently returned from a long weekend kayaking and camping on the Broken Islands off the west coast of Vancouver Island. It is truly a magical place!
For many years I was a driven professional woman with a packed agenda involved in work I was passionate about. My mind and my body were constantly “on the go”. At this phase in my life, I’ve made the decision to take some time to reflect, spend more time in nature and notice what I’m “called” to do. Here are some of the lessons Nature can teach us based on thinking about our recent weekend “off the grid”.
Lesson #1 – Relax
Have you noticed when you’re in nature how much more relaxed you feel? The Japanese have done longitudinal research to show that when we walk among trees it reduces our blood pressure, reduces our heart rate and increases the number of natural killer cells our body produces. In other words, it strengthens our immune system. As leaders and change makers it is important to “get off the treadmill” and take some time out of our busy lives to truly relax, and nature is the perfect remedy.
Lesson #2 – Trust
One morning when I climbed out of our tent I noticed that the fog was down to the ground and visibility was extremely limited. I’m not keen on kayaking in fog and said to myself, this will burn off. I trusted that the sun would burn off the fog and the visibility would return, and it did! As leaders it’s important when things aren’t going the way we wish to trust that things will work out, and that we will learn something from the experience.
Lesson #3 – Presence
Last weekend I noticed that I was truly present much of the time. I was focused on what was in front of me while kayaking and when speaking with my partner. It is important to notice changes in the wind, clouds, tides and currents when you’re kayaking on the ocean. Likewise, as leaders it is important to be present in our work and personal lives and also to be alert to change or the need for it.
Lesson #4 – Playfulness
When I watch birds flying on air currents and humpback whales jumping, it reminds me of the importance of taking time to be playful and to connect with my inner child. It gets me thinking: How can I inject more playfulness into my life? What about you?
Lesson #5 – Courage
Most animals have predators. While off the grid, we saw an amazing array of creatures; from bears to whales, to dolphins, mice and tadpoles. When these animals show themselves, it takes courage, as not only do we as humans see them, but they open themselves up to being seen by their predators. How can you be more courageous in your life and work?
Lesson #6 – Creativity
We experienced an amazing sunset while camping. When gazing at a sunset and watching it change, it reminds me of someone taking a paintbrush and constantly adding and changing colors and tones. In our work, it is important to take some risks and come up with creative solutions to those issues that arise.
Lesson #7 – Beauty
When spending time in nature it’s difficult not to appreciate the beauty that surrounds us and to be amazed by the diversity. In our lives as leaders and changemakers, it is important to recognize and appreciate the diversity among our teams and also the beauty in how we “dance” together
Nature is such a powerful teacher. To relax, trust, be present, playful, courageous and creative, are a few of the lessons we can learn from nature. These are powerful reminders for us as we navigate our lives as leaders and changemakers. I encourage you to spend more time in nature and to notice what YOU notice.
I’d love to hear from you. How does nature inspire you? I welcome your comments and invite you to share your experiences below.
In late May of this year, I made a public commitment in my blog – https://pamela-thompson.com/creating-space-the-how-and-why/, that I was intending to create more space in my life this summer. This is an update on the actions I’ve taken so far to create more space and what I’ve noticed as a result. I’m sharing these with the hope that you may glean something useful from my experience, and feel comfortable sharing yours.
The first thing I did was to really get clear on what I wanted to “do” this summer and what I wanted to “stop doing”. I realized that I did not want to attend a business conference in the US as I wasn’t ready to declare my business goals for the coming year. I cancelled my flight, hotel and ticket for the conference and then booked a vacation to visit family and friends in eastern Canada as that felt “right’.
I was on the Leadership Team of an entrepreneurial women’s group, spoke with the head and handed off my position to another woman with a supportive call. I then put my membership to that group on hold.
I am on a number of lists and began to unsubscribe from many. It felt SOoo good. For some time I’ve been thinking of doing this but felt I might “miss out” on something. Do you relate? I was surprised at how easy it was to hit the unsubscribe button. It feels so much better each day when I open up my emails and see that they have decreased considerably.
In general, I feel more relaxed. In fact, most of the time I have an incredible sense of inner peace and calm. On a recent visit back east, one of my friends who I hadn’t seen in over a year, commented that I was getting younger!
I have little structure in my life, other than meditating and doing a stretching routine every morning and yoga three times a week. I make a point of spending a lot of time in nature, either walking, kayaking or riding my bike. It feels like I awaken each day with a clean canvas on which I can choose to paint anything I wish. I feel liberated. It’s wonderful!
In the past when I’ve taken some time off, I usually am thinking about the next thing I’m going to do. In contrast, this time, I have no idea what my work will look like and I’m relaxed and fine with that. I trust that I will get clarity when the time is right.
Most of the time I feel present and playful. This enables me to have more focused conversations with my partner, other family members and friends. I’m having more fun and I feel more centered and grounded.
I’d love to hear from those of you who’ve committed to creating more space in your life. What has the experience been like for you? How are things unfolding? I welcome your comments below. Feel free to share this with others who you think might benefit.
Have you ever thought about the power and influence you have? I’m not talking about being the CEO of a company of 1000 employees, or a highly paid and sought after speaker, or best-selling author, although you may be. I’m talking about you as a mother, partner, sister, daughter, friend, colleague … . In your day-to-day life you interact with a number of people, and you have the power to influence them in positive ways.
Can you recall being in the presence of someone who really makes you feel like you’re important, that you’re being listened to and truly heard? What qualities make this person memorable? Do they look into your eyes, appear grounded and have their attention truly focused on you? Do they act genuinely concerned about your well-being? Are they truly responsive to what you have to say? Do they speak from their heart?
When we interact with others from a place of being grounded and from a place of compassion and inner peace, rather than thinking about the next thing on our “to do list” or reacting to something someone says, it affects the quality of our relationships and how people “feel” around us. It also affects how open they are to our ideas.
How You Can Increase Your Power and Influence
Here are some “tried and true” strategies:
- Strengthen your relationship with yourself – A good place to start is to identify your unique strengths, talents and passions.
- Draw a chart with two columns. In the first column, write down all the things that you are good at, or things that come easily and naturally to you. They could be things such as, athletics, mathematics, writing, whatever you feel fits.
- In the second column, write down the things you enjoy doing. They could include being in nature, teaching others, using your body, playing piano…. If you feel challenged by this, think back to what you enjoyed doing as a child.
- Now look at both lists and circle the items that are similar or identical. Then review the circled items. Go inside and get in touch with the feeling each one evokes inside you. Does it excite you? Does it have little or no effect on you? Rate each item on a scale from 1 to 10 according to the level of passion you have around it (1 being “no interest at all” and 10 being “red hot”). I encourage you to do this from your body rather than your head.
When you take the time to “unearth” your unique strengths, talents and what you’re passionate about, you better understand why working and being with certain types of people and organizations light you up and others don’t. Then you can take steps to change your life so that you are working or involved with people, causes and organizations that “light you up”. You also inspire others with your passion.
- “Do less” and “Be more” – When we are constantly “on the move”, with packed schedules and little if any “down time”, our minds are always active and thinking of the next thing on our “to do” list instead of truly being present and focusing on the person we are speaking with. Even if someone isn’t consciously aware that we aren’t focusing on them, their subconscious knows. It’s important that we create space in our days to “be”. Suggestions to help you to slow down and become more present include: spending time in nature, doing yoga, taking time to stretch and/or meditate on awakening instead of hitting the ground running, journaling regularly, listening to music you love and moving your body to it.
- Give and Receive in a more balanced way – Many of us are socialized from a young age that it is important to give to others and to put ourselves at the bottom of the list. We are often made to feel guilty or selfish if we “give” to ourselves. Self-care is a “must”. We all need time to nurture our bodies, to relax and let go of the stresses in our lives. When we constantly give to others without giving to ourselves, we may become resentful and SOoo tired. When we are constantly “giving” and “doing”, our body is always in fight, flight or freeze mode and the stress hormones it pumps out eventually lead to burnout, adrenal fatigue, cancer or other chronic illnesses. If we want to positively influence those around us, it is important for us to look after ourselves and regularly take time for that bubble bath, walk in nature, lunch with a friend … .
- Improve your relationships with others – When you take time for yourself, and are aware of how you interact with others, you can be present in your conversations, come to them with an open mind, and from a place of understanding rather than judgment.
Making a difference
I believe that we all want to make a positive difference in the world. It may be on a smaller or larger scale.
What are you truly passionate about? What problem do you want to solve and for whom? Perhaps it’s the communication challenges you’re having with your teenage daughter, or the frustration with a work colleague. It may be an issue you feel passionate about such as water conservation or climate change. Mine is building peace in the world.
Many of us have some fear around creating and effecting change, particularly when it comes to the bigger issues. By joining with like-minded souls, we become energized and are able to create movements that on our own are not possible. I love Margaret Mead’s often cited quote: “Never believe that a few caring people can’t change the world. For, indeed, that’s all who ever have.”
Here’s a poem I wrote that I hope will inspire and support you to be a positive influence in the world.
We are all women
Connected through the ages.
From hunters and gatherers
To queens and ladies-in-waiting.
Despite our different origins and surroundings,
We all endure similar pain, anxiety, and joy.
Nurturing is what we’re known for.
Caring for the sick, the wounded, the children,
Tireless in our cause, to improve the lot of humankind.
Sitting in a circle with others, hands clasped,
I feel the energy of powerful women throughout the ages.
I feel their warm blood pulsing through my veins.
The time has come to right the wrongs.
The time has come for women to unite
And be catalysts for peace.
No longer can our voices be hushed.
The time for action has come.
Our feminine qualities of intuition, warmth and sensitivity
Enable us to intervene in areas of conflict,
To lead the way towards our vision of a nurturing and caring world,
A world with love, land and opportunity
Women in sacred circles have for centuries felt the energy and
Interconnection among themselves.
Now, more than ever, we need the courage to rise up,
To take action towards making the world a better place
For our families, friends, neighbors,
And future generations.
Will you accept the challenge?
Pamela Thompson, October 27, 2000
Here’s to YOU and to making a positive difference in the world!
I’d love to hear from you. What strategies have you found helpful to increase your power and influence? I welcome your comments and insights below.
*This article was previously published in the March 2017 issue of Eydis Authentic Living Magazine.
I’m culling yet again! Less than two years ago my husband and I did a big downsize and moved from our dream home in the Okanagan Valley to a 2-bedroom rental apartment in Victoria. At that time I sold and gave away a lot of furniture, books, clothes …. When we moved from the rental apartment to our new townhome in late November, I culled yet again. Several months ago I committed to clearing out our Seacan (Big Steel Box) of remaining “bits and pieces” by the end of June this year. Now the pressure is on!
When I go through my boxes it feels like a life review. Recently I found a number of photos of my kids, friends, other members of my family and myself and had to make the tough decision about which ones to keep and which ones to throw away. I know that I could scan them all, but at this point in my life I don’t have the patience for that! Do your relate?
I’ve done a number of things throughout my life and have been going through courses I designed and taught; articles and documents I’ve written. On the one hand it’s felt good to realize what I’ve done, on the other I wonder how I used to accomplish what I did in a day. It’s a far cry from my current level of productivity!
I love books and have again gone through them and made decisions about which ones to give away. Some of them are in a “holding pattern” as I feel like I “should” read them again, but I question Is this a good reason to reread a book? Am I just afraid of letting go of more of my stuff?
So what am I learning from this experience? It’s teaching me to let go of things that no longer are of interest or bring me joy. It’s made me realize things that used to stir my passion, no longer do. My life has gradually switched from an almost total focus on activities involving my logical left-brain to a focus on my creative right brain and listening to my body; from a focus on achievement, to connection and creativity. It’s an interesting and yet at the same time, strange place to be. In the past I’ve always pretty well known the next step to take. Now I’m being asked to be patient, to create space and to notice what comes up. Have you ever been here? I also realize that when I let go, it opens the door for new people and possibilities to show up in my life. So I need to trust that I will be “shown the way”; all in good time.
Have you ever been in a “holding pattern” and wondered what your next step should be? What was that experience like for you? Have you culled your possessions recently or in the past? If so, what was that like for you?
I invite you to share your thoughts and experiences below, as that’s how we learn from each other. Until next time!