The Healing Power of Nature
Claire lives in the countryside where she is able to access nature on her doorstep – green spaces, big skies and ancient woodlands all around. As she says, noticing the natural cycles and rhythms of life in nature inspires her to live more slowly.
“We live in such a fast paced, always ‘on’ world that is obsessed with doing and being busy. Nature inspires me to just be, to let go of the rush and external expectations about what our lives should look like. It helps me to get a better perspective about the really important things in life.”
Walking in nature isn’t just a calming experience for Claire – she says, she finds it healing too. She uses the natural world as a therapeutic tool in her work, and she looks for nature’s wisdom to guide her meditation and teaching.
Claire practises and teaches forest bathing – it is a natural healing therapy which originated in Japan (also known as shinrin-yoku).
“In simple terms it’s the practice of spending time among trees, slowing down, engaging our senses and connecting deeply with nature for better health and well-being. Forest bathing is the art of ‘not doing’ and is the perfect antidote to our busy screen filled lives. The bathing element of the term refers to immersing oneself in the forest environment rather than getting wet – think in terms of sun bathing rather than wild swimming – although that could be part of a forest bath if you wanted!”
Claire explains that we can quieten our minds and calm our overstimulated nervous system by simply slowing down and focusing on natural surroundings. A number of scientific studies have explored forest bathing, and some benefits of this mindfulness practise include:
- reduced stress levels
- increased immune function
- lower blood pressure
- improved mood
- better sleep
Keep in mind, that, to successfully forest bathe, you should leave behind your phone and any other distracting devices, take your time and engage all 5 of your senses to really soak in the power of forest.
“Forest bathing can have a positive impact on our emotional, physical, spiritual and mental health – it helps us to deeply relax, think more clearly and gives us more energy and vitality.”
Protecting Our Nature
“As a family, we do various things to try and protect our planet, from using renewable energy, driving an electric car, growing some of our own fruit and vegetables, choosing smaller ethical brands and using our local refill shop. We’ve given up eating red meat and have introduced more vegetarian recipes into the menu and we’re also part of a local community salad share. There’s a lot more we can do for sure – there is still too much plastic in my bin every week and because of our rural location we rely very heavily on using our car to get around.”
Claire uses the wonderful quote by zero-waste chef Anne Marie Bonneau to inspire others: “We don’t need a handful of people doing zero waste perfectly – we need millions of people doing it imperfectly.” This quote reminds her that nobody is too small to make a difference. Taking lots of small steps adds up in the end towards a big positive difference.
Claire has also started to get curious and mindful about what she buys – not just what the product is made of, but how it was produced, transported, sold. This way of thinking has helped her become a more mindful consumer.
“Next time you sit with a cup of tea, think about how many people have actually been involved in the making of it. Have people been paid fairly or has anyone been exploited? Have natural habitats been destroyed? How many miles have been racked up in the transportation? We consume and take so much for granted without even pausing to consider where they have come from and what has been involved in its production.”
“Having a deep connection to nature is what really motivates me to do what I can to help our environment – when you love something you are moved to protect it, so I would also encourage everyone to get curious about the natural world and spend lots of time in nature. Slow down and notice beauty – lose yourself in the wonder of it all.”
Claire suggests to recognise that we are all part of something much greater than ourselves, and that nature holds the key to all aspects of life.
“We are nature – if the natural world is broken, then so too are we. I believe real wealth isn’t about how much money we have – true wealth lies in nature and in resilient healthy ecosystems – in clean water, healthy soil and biodiversity. Our health, well-being, quality of life and ability to thrive as a species is totally dependent on the health of our planet. By respecting and protecting our planet and nature we are taking care of ourselves.”