WARNING: Being part of nature creates a state of being and presence that improves your physical and mental health.
Nature has been called one of the world’s best prescriptions for restoration by indigenous people, scholars, theologians, scientists, and artists since the beginning of time. What the typical nature Rx label doesn’t tell you, however, is that this prescription isn’t just a one-time experience. With regular use, nature is an unlimited energy source you can count on for personal restoration every time you let yourself become part of it.
There are literally thousands of white papers, blogs, videos, songs, great works of literature, and stories that document the benefits of time spent in nature. You can have:
- A stronger body
- Improved memory
- Better problem-solving abilities
- Lower blood pressure
- Lower obesity rates
- More positive moods
- Less stress, anxiety, and depression
- Better focus
How does nature work its magic on us? Here’s what I’ve learned firsthand.
I’m from the heart of the manufacturing Midwest, Toledo, Ohio. The Nature Conservancy has identified where I live as one of America’s last great places. It’s called the Oak Openings Region. It’s a tract of land between Toledo and Detroit a little larger than the state of Rhode Island. It’s as rare as the Everglades in Florida and the temperate rain forests of Washington state. Ninety-nine percent of the Oak Openings is developed and people don’t even realize they’re in it. The last one percent of undeveloped land is hidden in the hands of private landowners, like me.
My husband and I felt called to restore our 20 acres of the Oak Openings. To the average eye, our homestead property just looked like thick woods. From a native state perspective, it was an overgrown mess. Large, non-native trees had created a canopy that choked out the sun and sucked up the natural resources in the soil so that the native plants couldn’t grow. What we later learned was a rare buttonbush swamp looked more like a big mudhole filled with decaying leaves and smelly muck rather than water teeming with life.
Natural restoration is not for the faint of heart. Over a period of 12 years, Jon cut down large healthy trees that weren’t native to our area to open the woods to the sun. I fought off fear when he set the woods on fire in an annual series of controlled burns that literally charred all of the undergrowth on the property down to ugly, smelly ashes (the native trees were unharmed). We laughed as he waded into the swamp in hip boots to clear out debris clogging the natural flow of the water.
The results of these conservation efforts have been spectacular! Our nature “show” now includes a fully restored native habitat that supports rare plants and species like wildflowers, plants, and sedge grasses, songbirds of all sizes and colors, owls, hawks, choruses of frogs, fox, deer, wild turkeys, wood ducks and mallards, dragonflies, butterflies, salamanders, turtles, and a full spectrum of seasonal colors. On any given day, we can immerse ourselves in a full-on sensory experience of natural sights, sounds, smells, touch, and taste that inspire us with their grace and resilience.
The successful restoration of our initial eight-acre woodlot has led to the restoration of a 12-acre wet prairie. In fact, when we first walked the prairie before we purchased it, we looked at each other with wide eyes and acknowledged that we felt its lifeforce under our feet. It was as if the property was calling out to us for help so that it could be its best self.
The Nature Rx Saved My Life
When we connect with nature as a fundamental life force, we see ourselves as strong, capable, and resilient, just like it is. It’s a connection that helps us see the world from a place of wonder and awe rather than fear and foreboding. Jon and I call this finding your Zen environment, or zenvironment for short. A zenvironment is an intentional place of restoration, self-awareness and calm attentiveness that allows us to find the peace we need to become our authentic selves and achieve anything. Best of all? Whether you live in the city, the suburbs, or the country, creating a personal zenvironment is easy when you follow the roadmap nature herself uses every day.
Nature’s Rx literally saved my life. I nearly died when my appendix ruptured while on vacation on a remote Caribbean island. It was the biggest disruption of my life and forced me into a different state of normal. I startled easily. I had trouble saying complete sentences. I was lost for months and unsure if I’d ever become the “me” I was used to being.
What helped my recovery was retreating into our woods and letting its natural energy surround me as I healed. I slowed down. My breathing became more regular. My brain fog cleared. I was able to increase my physical stamina. It was as if nature took a hold of me and pushed me forward a little at a time.
The process for restoring our property and my subsequent rediscovery of me set the stage for me to feel I can achieve anything.
Follow Nature’s Recipe for Restoration
To rediscover yourself and achieve anything, take advantage of all that nature has to teach us by following “nature’s recipe for restoration.”
Here’s a preview of my book chapter in Anna Pereira’s book, 25 Tools to Achieve Anything.
- Connect with nature by going outside, listening to nature sounds, or changing your phone photos to nature scenes.
- Identify the invasives in your life.
- Be brave enough to own what you love about yourself.
- Welcome a little prescribed disruption in your environment even if it’s painful or scary.
- Show up for yourself every day.
- Step back when any piece of the hard work is done, smile, and celebrate.
Connect with Susan Cross and be sure to read Chapter 14 in The Wellness Universe Guide to Complete Self-Care, 25 Tools to Achieve Anything available on Amazon June 22nd.
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Susan Cross is a passionate advocate of connecting with nature to reduce stress and anxiety, and to improve mood. She helps people see the world in powerful new ways as a healthy positivity thought leader, crusader of self-worth, author, and speaker. Learn more at https://www.zenvironment.life/.