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.
What does change have to do with being an entrepreneur?
- Entrepreneurship is all about change. When you start your own business it’s often scary as you’re leaving a “secure” position to go out on your own to new and uncharted territory. Having a business is all about experimenting. You try one niche and if you don’t get a great response you switch to another. You write copy for a program, product or service, test it, see who it attracts and then write some more and test that. In business we learn from our successes as well as our failures (usually more from our failures). Being successful in business requires being open to learning and growing.
- As we move through the various phases of growing our business, limiting beliefs and unresolved issues typically come up for us. Our inner critic sends us messages such as: Who do you think you are to want a 6-figure income? (related to self-worth); How can you choose such a narrow niche, you’ll have no clients? (related to fear of not making enough money). In order to grow your business you need to address those limiting beliefs and unresolved issues which involves change and transformation.
- Life Transitions and Changes in Business are intertwined. If we are stressed by changes in our business (e.g. breakdown of a business partnership), we often bring them into our personal lives and take our anger and frustration home with us. Similarly, if we are going through relationship transitions (e.g. separation or divorce), we often bring the emotions associated with those into our work. They may cause us to lose our focus, our patience and result in less engagement, lower productivity and more conflict at work.
- Our beliefs about change influence our behaviors related to it. For example, if you perceive change as scary and to be feared, then you will resist it and experience a lot of stress related to it. Whereas, if you view change as a creative process that opens you up to new possibilities, the change experience becomes exciting, easier and faster.
- There is some solace in knowing that we are all hard-wired to fear change. Our amygdala (part of the brain) is constantly scanning the environment to protect us and keep us safe. When it perceives a threat or something out of the ordinary, it sends messages to our bodies to go into fight, flight or freeze.
What happens when we don’t embrace change?
Research and life experiences show that if we don’t learn to embrace change we:
- keep repeating the same patterns in our lives and remaining unhappy and unfulfilled
- expend a lot of energy resisting change
- feel constantly under stress leading to chronic health issues and negative impacts on our relationships and our businesses.
The bottom line is if we don’t learn to embrace change, over time it negatively impacts both our personal and our professional lives.
So how can we reduce our fear of change?
We can reduce our fear of change when we:
- better understand how and why we respond to change
- learn a proven model and tools to help us reduce resistance and embrace and successfully navigate any change.
The more you understand change and the more self-aware you are about how and why you respond to it, the more easily you can embrace and move through it.
Why I’m so passionate about sharing this message
Having been an entrepreneur since the early 1990s, and running three successful businesses, I’ve experienced many changes in my business and personal life and learned some of my lessons the hard way, I know that having tools and processes to understand and embrace change is critical to creating the business and life of your dreams. I’m now called to support leaders and entrepreneurs to better understand and to embrace change. Based on more than 25 years of leading, consulting and coaching with individuals and organizations from diverse cultures on 5 continents, I’ve created the Art of Change Framework. It’s a proven 5-step process that guides and supports individuals and teams to move from fear and uncertainty to clarity and confidence. It makes the change experience fun as it likens the process to learning a dance.
We all need to process change and we do it in different ways and at different rates. When you have an increased understanding of change and how you respond to it, and proven processes and tools to help you to successfully navigate the change experience, it positively impacts your business and your bottom line.
If you’d like to learn more about the Art of Change Framework, here are some relevant articles: https://pamela-thompson.com/strengthen-impact-world-dance-change/ ; https://pamela-thompson.com/important-embrace-change-begin/
If you’re going through a life transition and would like to learn more about it and how to more easily navigate it, I encourage you to sign up for my complimentary Transition Journey Quiz and Tips – https://pamela-thompson.com/about/
I always like to hear from you and how the articles “land” and welcome your comments below. How has change affected you and your business? What tools and strategies have you found helpful to navigate change? Please share the post with others who you think might benefit.
February is known as the month of love. During this time, many of us think of our primary relationships, of romance and of Valentine’s Day. What I know to be true is that we need to truly love ourselves before we can cultivate deep and satisfying relationships with others.
Many of us have been socialized from a young age to always give to others before ourselves. We may feel guilty if we take time for ourselves; such as having lunch with a friend, or to nurture ourselves; such as having a massage.
What happens if we constantly give to others without giving to ourselves? We may become resentful. For example, if we’re always giving to a friend, and when we ask for help, she doesn’t have time for us. We often become less tolerant and our patience wears thin so we react to our partners, children and co-workers in a reactive manner, rather than mindfully and sensitively. Over time we become exhausted. Do you relate? We all need and deserve some time for ourselves and to care for ourselves.
What activities do you regularly integrate into your life to nurture yourself?
For me doing yoga three to four times a week is extremely important. Meditating daily is also a way for me to ground and relax. Bubble baths with lavender bath salts is a self-care strategy of choice. For you, regular massages with a trusted practitioner may be your top nurturing behavior.
Make a list of the things you do already to nurture yourself. Add to the list other things you would like to begin doing. Cheryl Richardson’s best-selling book The Art of Extreme Self Care is a great resource that offers 12 strategies to transform your life one month at a time. Get into action by putting your self-care strategies in your calendar (e.g. yoga classes), and by scheduling appointments with your favorite massage therapist, or lunch with a dear friend.
Remember, YOU are precious and deserve to be nurtured.
What self-care strategies do you employ to nurture yourself? How do you feel during and after doing something for yourself? I welcome your comments and strategies below. Feel free to share this post with a friend.