A fond hello to past and present
Getting stuck in sad thoughts is no fun, and I’m trying to use my daily nature ritual to break those spirals when they pop up.
This newsletter is going out on a day that always inspires reflection for me. To be fair, it probably does that for a lot of people.
In the broader sense of history, December 7 is the anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor in WWII. Lots of people lost their lives in a tragic event that led to the United States entering WWII.
In my little world, it’s the day one of my grandmothers passed away, some 30-odd years ago now. She was a powerhouse of energy, full of stories and sass. She taught me to say “kiss my ***” in Irish, giggling as she said it.
That’s not me in the photo, by the way. It’s my little sister. She was such a cute kid.
I’ll never forget the day I went on a field trip, and when we got back to the school, my dad was standing on the side walk waiting for me to get off the bus. I knew something was wrong as soon as I saw him, and needless to say, I was devastated at losing her.
Those memories are sad, but they are also dear to me. I make a point of celebrating my grandma’s life at this time every year, and I know without question that she would want me to do it with joy and not let sadness break down into quicksand.
So what can we do when we get caught in a spiral of thoughts that are hard to break out of?
There’s no question, changing your scenery can change how you think. How many times have you finally taken a trip to the beach or to Paris or to the Grand Canyon and found that your outlook on life changed completely?
Let’s go to the beach! No, just kidding. I’ve got deadlines to meet, but I hope you get to go.
And the truth is, it doesn’t have to be a big trip or a pilgrimage to a mountain top monastery – a small change of scene can do the trick. In fact, making small intentional efforts to give ourselves a change of scene every day can do wonders for our outlook.
Don’t take my word for it. The science proves it. [link]
No surprise, I’m always going to advocate for including nature in that effort. If your physical view is one that you perceive as negative, like a sea of concrete or an industrial dumping ground, it will actually make your outlook worse, so let’s set ourselves up for success.
Maybe you take a walk every day at lunch and change up the route a little bit each day to take in a park or walk by a creek. Whatever the options are for nature in your immediate vicinity, as long as you feel safe going there and spending time there, it will give you a mental boost.
Here’s to honoring the past while still living fully in the present.
Nature through the senses
In keeping with the theme this week, we know that scents can trigger memories, and certain scents can be so evocative that you immediately feel transported to another place in your mind. So, choose wisely. What’s a scent that can immediately put you in a happy, sunny place? How often do you do something to intentionally bring that scent into your life?
How do we decide what is the best type of landscape to spend time in when we need a mental boost? The most effective kind of nature scenery for positive mental effects are landscapes with layered planting, with at least 40% of the scene made up of planted area. I know, that’s a really clinical way of putting it, but you’d be amazed how many people want to just pour concrete on everything and call it a natural space. (Stepping off my soap box now.) So what is layered planting? It has lots of different heights and types of plants – some combination of canopy trees, understory trees, shrubs, and perennials/low growing plants.
There’s evidence that the wind can actually have a profound effect on mental health. Stories of people being driven crazy by persistent, unceasing wind have been around for centuries, and recent studies have shown that even the direction of the wind can have an effect on mental health.
Cinnamon is one of those flavors that feels right this time of year, and it is actually good for digestion. It’s also high in antioxidants, which makes me want to reach for a tasty cup of chai next time I’m out in the cold.
I’m going to suggest a different kind of natural texture this time. Why not find your favorite furry friend and cuddle with them for a while? It’s good for you, good for them, and a fun texture to enjoy as you pet them. My dogs and cat are expert cuddlers if anyone wants to come over and try it out.
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