Healthy humans need nature breaks; most of us know this intuitively. There’s also rich scientific evidence that spending as few as 15 daily minutes in nature makes us nicer, calmer more creative and less disease prone people.
Despite being hard wired to love time out in nature and having ample access in our ‘sunburnt country’ around 30% of Australian grown ups are deficient in Vitamin D. Even more scarily, on average we spend about 90% of our time indoors.
How can we recalibrate our building bound, screen dominated lives to make breathing space for connecting to nature? If you are anything like me this will mean changing some unhelpful habits standing between nature and me. These include putting my own needs pretty much last and letting go of healthy energising activities as soon as work pressures ramp up.
In our hectic city bound lives, few of us can embrace the great American naturalist and philosopher Henry David Thoreau’s experience of vast untamed ‘wilderness’ with its mysterious, unfathomable wonder. However, if we turn our minds to it we can find our own uplifting version of it in observing seasonal changes in the tiniest city park or nurturing new buds on our office cyclamen.
If you are keen to strengthen your relationship with nature, here’s what I suggest.
1. Immerse yourself gently
Try finding 30 daily nature focused minutes for a week. This ‘30 x 7’ exercise is a downsized version of the 30 x 30 challenge I recently undertook (yes 30 minutes in nature for 30 days!). I predict that even this short stint of daily nature immersions will give you plenty of food for thought.
2. Plan ahead
Set yourself up for success by planning how and when your 30 x 7 will work best. Begin by asking yourself if you are:
- a lark who is likely to be energised by an early morning walk or run or swim?
- an owl who enjoys evening hours under the stars or dusky down time by the ocean?
- a green fingered grower of a verdant desktop jungle?
- a lunch break lingerer in a quiet corner of a city park?
Decide on the time, type and scope of these precious experimental minutes and schedule them in. Make physical or mental notes on how you go.
- How hard or easy was it to prioritise the time?
- What changed for you and for the people close to you?
- How did you feel after a quick break in nature?
- Would you like more or less time spent in nature?
If 30 x 7 worked well for you, I think you can guess what I’m going to suggest next.
3. Take the 30 x 30 challenge
Commit to spending 30 minutes in nature for 30 days. 30 x 30 is a well established Canadian community initiative run by the David Suzuki Foundation.
In August I accepted this initially daunting challenge, along with three other busy professional women from my program at The Centre For Sustainability Leadership. All of us had a strong affinity for nature and a nagging awareness that we weren’t making space for life affirming time out in open, green places.
We began by being wary of the winter wind and rain and early nightfall.
Could we rise to the challenge of fitting daily nature breaks into our packed and occasionally chaotic schedules?
Yes times four was the answer. We persevered, captured our varying experiences and shared what we learned.
This is what we found. (To see more of our photos follow @time4nature on instagram)
Tilly’s tip – integrate the break
Tilly linked her nature time to doing ‘something else’. She knew she’d be much more likely to make 30 x 30 work if she booked a park based coffee catch up with a friend or walked down a tree lined street from one meeting to the next.
Xuan’s advice – swap it out
Xuan knew she’d struggle to find time once her hectic working day kicked off. She decided to swap her morning drive to the station for walking through the park to catch the train.
Alexis’s answer – look and see
Spending time in her neighbourhood parks just didn’t do it for Alexis. So she decided to be more creative and to watch the moon, buy houseplants and visualise nature during her yoga sessions.
My lessons- more and less
Growing up in the lush English countryside has shaped my take on how nature looks and feels. Like Alexis I struggled initially to find a peaceful moment amidst the traffic noise and discarded lunch wrappers in nearby city parks.
I discovered that I had to find ways to get to larger, wilder spaces like Centennial Park or the beach. I need more weekends away in the Blue Mountains where I’m deeply in awe of nature’s beauty.
However, I also came to appreciate the therapeutic value of a brief circuit breaking excursion. Completing 30 x 30 grew my daily awareness of green spaces, tree-lined streets, birdcalls and my place in the greater ecosystem
After a grumpy afternoon hijacked by IT issues, ten minutes spent laughing at the mad antics of pond bound ducks near my office lifted my mood. It also put my technology glitches in their proper place in the broader scheme of things.
So far I haven’t completely succeeded in finding a daily nature break. However, I’m making more frequent visits to wild places I love, and appreciating the pockets of nature around me in the city.
4. It’s only natural
Be kind to yourself, however you find the ‘30 times something’ challenge. We are talking about making pleasurable life enhancing changes here, not cramming additional pressurising ‘must dos’ into your busy routine. Everyone in my 30 x 30 challenge team learned something unexpectedly valuable about her relationship with nature. We also discovered something else about our relationship with ourselves. When we decide to rise to the challenge of finding natural time out good things happen whether or not we manage a daily dose.
By Jo Green, Career Change Coach
I know how it feels to be lost in your career. That’s why I coach, to create learnings, action and help others get stuff done! Changing your career can be lonely and confusing so I'll walk alongside you, be your cheerleader and help you figure out what meaningful work is for you.
Drop me a note to organise a free 20 minute consultation to chat about your career change and how coaching could help.