September has been a month of unseen bounty in the veggie garden and cascading spring blooms, the perfect antidote to a lurking melancholy that I refuse to look in the eye. The unpredictability and cycle of dashed hopes takes its toll on most of us, one way or another. The prospect of the world opening up again soon is sending our hearts a flutter, as are our plans to open for retreats again in November.
Teetering in the flux of uncertainty, my favourite things to help keep me balanced, and (relatively) sane, are shared laughter with friends and daily walks in my happy place, Fitzroy Falls. Our current inner landscaping group has been perfectly timed too, completing just as we emerge from lockdown, after twelve weeks of cultivating creativity and connection.
Look up, look out, and look forward - this is the call for October’s Mental Health Month, in which we’re encouraged to make a mental health promise to ourselves. Mental Health Australia is offering ten tips for different ways to look after yourself: stay active, eat well, connect with others, do something you enjoy, limit media consumption, keep a routine, get an early night, be kind to yourself, maintain perspective and seek help.
This sounds easy enough, but one thing we know for sure here at Springfield, is that it is easier to do these with others than it is to go alone. Taking time out to look after yourself is good for you, and gathering with a group to do so is not only more fun, it can lead to lasting connections too.
To continue fostering connections, even while we can’t meet in person, our new online writing group, Springfield Wild Scribes, will be kicking off in October, so it’s not too late to get some writing done this year.
Springfielders have been meeting online weekly since April 2020. We started immediately after our Wild Writing retreat with Sarah Selecky and have been going strong ever since. As Rachael described so beautifully in our last newsletter, when she joined last November, she ‘fell into a fold of wild writers’.
In our experience, mixing writing and nature is a deliciously creative recipe, so although Wild Scribes is online, writers will be encouraged to incorporate time in nature into your writing process.
Surprisingly, although the graphics for Mental Health Month, and the call to 'look up, look out and look forward', imply reconnecting to nature, this isn't mentioned in their tips.
We know intuitively that spending time in nature is good for us, and researchers are amassing an expanding body of evidence proving this to be true: nature is good for us and has both long and short term mental and physical health benefits.
Being in nature has been linked to many benefits, including improved attention, lower stress, better mood, reduced risk of psychiatric disorders and increases in empathy and cooperation. You can boost your mood simply by looking at flowers, clouds and birds. Gaze at the horizon, watch waves roll in, walk in open green spaces, breathe in the fresh open air. According to the research, it really is that simple.
The benefits of turning our gaze to nature are amplified even further when you get away from the city. Research shows that people report more connection to nature and feel more restored after time in rural and coastal places. This was evident last year, when there was a stampede of visitors to the regions after lockdown, with city folk gasping for open spaces and country air. Visiting areas deemed to be high quality environmentally - such as nature reserves and protected habitat - were also more beneficial than areas with low biodiversity.
Being able to enjoy these benefits is just around the corner, so we invite you to come for a dose of nature nurture at our upcoming retreats. In the meantime, while you’re planning your visit, you’ll be pleased to know that even watching nature videos, with a diverse mix of flora and fauna has been shown to result in lower anxiety, more vitality and better mood. So, if you haven't treated yourself yet, don't miss the ABC’s Back To Nature series, it is as close to a deep dive into nature as I’ve ever seen on screen!
When nature nurtures us, we are more inclined to nurture nature right back too. Kindness, social empathy and cooperation have been shown to increase with time spent in nature. When we benefit from connecting to nature we are also more likely to care for the Earth and commit to taking care of our natural ecology. So, spending time in nature is good for us individually, socially and environmentally. Dare I say, from within the crumbling walls of lockdown, that if imposed isolation and restrictions have increased our craving to renew deep and loving connections with nature, friends
and community and, then perhaps it hasn't been for nothing.
American Psychological Association. (2020, April). Nurtured by nature. Monitor on Psychology, 51(3). http://www.apa.org/monitor/2020/04/nurtured-nature
Environmental Neuroscience Berman, M.G., et al., American Psychologist, 2019
Nature and Mental Health: An Ecosystem Service Perspective Bratman, G.N., et al., Science Advances, 2019
Ecotherapy: Theory, Research and Practice Jordan, M., & Hinds, J. (Eds.), Red Globe Press, 2016