What’s So Special About Nature?

In my last blog, I suggested you “visit” yourself, that is, have a moment of quiet and stillness, preferably near a window, gazing upon nature. I would like to take my recommendation a step further: go be in nature! It is necessary for your mental health!

It shouldn’t be hard to enter nature. You will probably feel right at home and rather relaxed. You are an integral part of nature and a beautiful example of it!

Go out there. Once you are there, do what you want. Run, walk, sit, stand, twirl around, jump up and down. I started doing ballet barre with a friend at a resting post on a recent nature walk. That was a spontaneous piece of fun. Have for yourself no agenda. This is not for the exercise, although if you do some sort of movement that you don’t usually do, that might feel pretty good. After you play with some different ways of moving – and seeing which feel good – experiment with being still. Stare at things, good and long.

What does this have to do with mental health? People relax in the outdoors. Have you wondered why? I believe it is because it is a special concoction of mixed experience. Nature graciously offers two of the greatest longings of our heart: Freedom and order. Outdoors, we have freedom. We can go where we want, and go as long and as far as we want. We can go in a circle. We could go backward and see how far we get that way. We can turn around and go back. We could keep going and walk (with some time spent traveling by water) all the way around the earth. The space is limitless and it feels like that, full of possibilities. While you are out there, in nature, you might find possibilities emerge not just in your movement and progress through space, but in your thoughts and feelings, too.

At the same time, when we are in nature, we are surrounded by order. The usual chaos to which we are subjected recedes. There is a comfort in the natural order where we can see the laws of science being applied and obeyed. We observe the order in the the visual patterns, cycles and sequences that our brains are hard-wired to perceive. It feels familiar as though we are going back to something elemental, wherein our internal desire for pattern, rhythm and order is met by the lawful array of beauty surrounding us.

So, so when we visit nature, that place where we started and where we spent so much time for most of human history, we enjoy the double-pleasure of being free while also being a part of something restrained in its order, pattern and predictability. It is at once comforting, and therefore relaxing, and also refreshing, and even invigorating! A double-portion of medicine!

It’s rather like a good therapy process. There is a sense of possibility, a freedom to explore. Yet, there is comfort in keeping the rules (the “frame” as we therapists call it) so that we can observe and discover the order of things. In this case, the order we find is in the patterns of your life, what’s governing your beliefs, emotions, and behaviors.

So, get outdoors. Taste some freedom. Comfort yourself with some order and pattern. See what there is to see in the big Green and Blue, and perhaps even in the nature that is you!

(I’m going to circle back around soon to our nature as creatures who need and thrive with rhythm. Check back soon!)

Be well ~

Lisa Seropian, Psy.D.

Licensed Psychologist

Charlotte, NC


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