Nature Connection Therapy: How do we connect with nature for mental health?

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For the last twenty years I have been guiding people into the wild via horse, white water raft and on foot.  Among all of the adventures, campfires, amazing animal encounters and community time, there is one over arching theme that stands out-connection.

We connect to the sky…

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Last fall, I was having a REALLY bad day and when I was about to go home I looked up & saw this…do you see the smiley face? I was so startled by the irony I laughed…then I cried. Its a welcome surprise when synchronistic nature experiences give me exactly what I need. The sky is a great provider of perspective, dreaming and connection to each other.

We are all under the same sky. 

We connect to the land…

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Hiking, looking out over large distances to far mountain peaks, being with friends and family or sometimes alone…the movement of my body and the feel of my feet on the earth, the air and presence of the plants, animals and rocks…the land gives us a place to ground (pun intended). It is holding us up everyday and offers us everything we have in our lives…the soil, trees, rocks and creatures live on this earth with us. You are still apart of ‘nature’ in downtown Seattle…the land holds everything… from the highest mountains to the lowest deserts.

We are all on the land.

We connect to the weather…

sauk-mountain-clouds-coming-inWhen I was teaching a plant class, weather came in unexpectedly on the top of Sauk Mountain. It turns a clear day into a mystical or scary place to be-this depends on your past experiences. Weather reminds us that things do really change…for the ‘better or worse’ isn’t really the point. It reminds us of the ever changing nature of life and its accompanying thoughts, emotions and events.

We are all affected by the weather.

We connect to the creatures…

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One of the most amazing experiences I have ever had was being able to hold this owl that was rehabilitating from an injury.I love owls. We can connect to creatures of the wild anywhere! Birds are especially present for most of us-no matter where you live. All living creatures have routines, stories and wisdom. When we take the time to see how the crow families interact or how the tiniest spider weaves her web, we are ‘downloading’ some of the intrinsic knowledge of that species. This can bring us insights in the form of metaphor, our relationship with that species and the mysteries of how it uniquely moves through the world.

We can all learn from other creatures

We connect to each other…and so much more!

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As humans we are built to connect, form relationships and bond to each other.  Sometimes these bonds can be abused or completely absent in some cases. Its very important to see how our bonds in childhood and the present, can impact how we connect with others in the future. People being around a fire together has been going on for centuries. Its a primary satisfaction written in our DNA.

We are all a part of nature. We share our experiences in the outdoors intentionally for the health of the community.

When talking with close friends about life path, they often hear me say, “the forests, lands and rivers are some of my greatest teachers.” Nature is the example of  how connection and relationship exists. Just think of the millions of years it has had to practice! Just going out and observing what goes on between different species, the change of the seasons or how fungi and plant roots interact can offer a gigantic well of wisdom.

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This wisdom can be accessed everyday and can support healing and growth. Sometimes it is very helpful to have a non human resource for connection, knowledge and comfort.

Currently there is a plethora of research showing how important it is to stay connected to the outdoors for your health. Many of us nature dorks have known this for decades!

During the next year I will be writing various interactive blog articles with activities, current research, the role of nature in theraputic practice.

                                                  Sky Connection Activity 

Try this even if you are not a nature lover. While walking to your car, going to an office, looking out your window or working in your garden-whatever you are doing today…
  1. Stop for a moment.
  2. Take one, slow breathe.
  3. Look at the WHOLE sky, clouds and all!
  4. Take 7 deep inhales, slowly, in through your nose and out through your nose. (Not your mouth)
  5. Are there any thoughts, feelings and/or sensations that come over you? (there are no right or wrong answers). Just recognize how you are in this moment…
  6. Just take a few moments to be under that sky and ask yourself:
    How does it feel to be connected to the sky…?
    Do I have anything to say to the sky?
    Is there an insight for me in the clouds? Colors? Textures? Weather?
         Am I grateful to the sky in this moment?
????
8. Once again, acknowledge any thoughts, feelings, etc. on how you are in this moment and reflect:
 How do I feel now compared to how I felt before I connected with the sky?
                                           There are NO wrong answers!
9.  Please me know how this activity goes for you below. I like to using an expanded version of this for clients struggling with anxiety, grief, PTSD and panic attacks.

I look forward to connecting to you soon. Remember, I offer Walk & Talk and Nature Connection Therapy so please let me know if you have any questions at lindsayhuettman@soulstewardscounseling.com. or 425-835-3869

Yours from the forest,

Lindsay

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The Link Between Nature Connection, Trauma and Attachment

At the beginning of this year I am putting together a multi year research project on the role of trauma and how humans attach to nature for healing and ‘wholeing’ when other humans are deemed ‘unsafe’.  My studies will pull from the following bodies of research:

  • Attachment Theory
  • Bowen Family Systems Theory
  • Trauma treatments, origins and therapies
  • Anthropology and Sociology research
  • Ecopsychology and Ecotherapy
  • Clinical studies on the effects of nature connection and animal assisted therapy
  • Interviews of adult survivors of child abuse and trauma who are connected to nature as a result of their traumas

If you or anyone you know are interested in being interviewed for this research, please contact me at lindsayhuettman@soulstewardscounseling.com. I will post my article once my research is complete.