Have you recently walked through your favourite park, gone for a hike in the countryside or just enjoyed an afternoon with friends in the garden? It feels good to be outdoors! But why is green space so good for us?
The answer is simple: because nature is where we come from. As a species we’ve emerged from the African forest and as humans we have lived most of our existence in close connection with the natural world. So being in nature is wired into us. It’s why we feel so at ease and slow down when we spend time in green space. It helps usto feel present, to gain perspective and feel more positive about life.
The health benefits of green space and the natural environment are more widely recognised now, with increasing research supporting the value of nature as a 21st century mental health tool. For example, the University ofExeter Medical School published research (2014) which looked at how people’s mental health changed over time following relocation to greener, less urban areas. It found that the people experienced an immediate and sustained improvement in their mental health.
How we feel in nature often doesn’t happen at a conscious level – it can subtle but powerful and crucial for our emotional, psychological and physical well-being.
For many of us, a large part of work and even home life is spent looking at a screen – with little emphasis given to creating space in our ever busy, and for many, urban lives to spend time out in green space.
I set up Green Space Life Coaching (www.greenspacecoaching.com), offering ‘coaching while walking’ in London’s parks and green space, to combine the benefits green space offers with my coaching work.
When we walk our mind starts to concentrate on the muscle and body movements and as a result our brain waves slow down, helping us to streamline thoughts, reflect and generate new ways of thinking, ideas and solutions.
Often when we allow ourselves to open up to natural surroundings, new insights emerge. All of a sudden we are able to look at important things in our life from a different perspective, perhaps gain a better understanding of some things or find a new way forward. I often say that clients walk their way out of a problem and into solution. And so it is.
But what of the colour green?
The colour green occupies more space in the spectrum visible to the human eye than most colours; is second only to blue as a favourite colour and is considered the colour of life, nature, peace, health and growth.
The colour green affects us physically and psychologically. It soothes and relaxes us mentally, as well as physically, helping alleviate depression, nervousness, stress and anxiety and offering a sense of renewal, self-control and harmony.
Green is also the colour of the Heart Chakra, one of our energy centres. The Heart Chakra bridges the gap between the physical and spiritual worlds. Opening the Heart Chakra allows a person to love more, empathize, and feel compassion.
It’s no wonder we feel intuitively attracted to natural green settings like local parks, nature reserves, gardens, the countryside. They are wonderful healthy spaces to be away from traffic noise, pollution and the pressure of everyday life.
Nature is everywhere, we don’t have to go far to tap into the wellbeing benefits green space offers. You can:
- Check out your route to work and see whether you can walk or cycle the whole or part of your journey to work
- Go for a walk during your lunch break to a nearby park or around the block, even if it’s only for 20 minutes – and notice how you feel afterwards
- If you have a local quiet park near work, run some of your more informal meetings there – your colleagues will thank you for it
- Find out about the parks and green spaces in your local area and spend regular time there – walking, sitting on bench, running, cycling, on your roller-blades…
- Try and make time to get out into the countryside for a day.
And to help you make the most of your green space moment, try this simple ‘4-3-2-1’ exercise.
- Take a walk on your own ideally in a green space
- Slow down your pace
- Take a few deep breaths
- Start by naming 4 things you can see (e.g. clouds, trees, flowers, people), 4 things you can hear (birds, traffic, laughing, leaves rustling) and 4 things you can feel (physical sensations – the breeze, the warmth of the sun, your heart beat, tension in your shoulders); then go on to name 3 of each, then 2 of each and then 1.
Try to identify different things for each of the 4 stages. This will heighten your experience and help to ground you in the present moment.
If you would like to find out more about Green Space Life Coaching, take up a free taster coaching while walking session in east London’s Victoria Park, or by phone or Skype, please get in touch through www.greenspacecoaching.com
Email [email protected]
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