Gratitude Month Week 2: Grateful for Nature
Ralph Waldo Emerson rightly said, “Adopt the pace of nature, the secret is patience.”
Growing up in rural Wisconsin taught me how to love nature and how it can help my mood and stress levels. I am grateful for parents who loved camping, hiking, canoeing/SUP, hunting and cross-country skiing. We were always outside playing in the dirt, exploring our neighborhood creek and woods as well as riding our bikes the seven miles to the nearest town. In high school, I enjoyed taking anthropology and environmental science classes so that I could be outside, in mother nature and digging in the dirt. Flash forward a few decades and now I know why I love nature so much.
After graduating college in upper Wisconsin, I promptly moved west to Colorado where I fell in love with the mountains, hiking and biking trails, streams, waterfalls, camping and skiing to satisfy my nature fix. The best part, the majority of these amazing things I can find in my neighborhood or within one hour from my home. I have now lived in Colorado longer than I lived in WI, 27 years and there is a reason I call this amazing state HOME! Living in the lap of nature for this long, while being only five miles from a major city has provided me with some amazing insights on nature. I love the monarch butterflies who make a stop in my gardens every spring and summer. I enjoy watching the dragonflies in my backyard and every night the neighborhood bats eat all our bugs. I love driving 15 minutes to the nearest lake to paddleboard in the middle of a Wednesday to take in the calm and serene water. There are 20 different hiking trails within 30 minutes from my home that provide me with a challenging hike as well as amazing views and wildlife.
Our urban parks, over 200 in Denver alone, also provide a quick escape from your worry and anxiety by providing amazing trails for walking, running, roller-blading or biking. There are always trees, a lake or pond and most have amazing views of our mountains. Some have even included gardens where you can take care of a plot of soil to grow whatever you want and reap the benefits of organic foods. This year, my son and I have included chickens into our family for fresh eggs every day. It is refreshing to meet the chickens every morning with a happy cluck and a fresh egg or two. I love going to the Farmer’s Markets every Sunday and picking up fresh produce and fruit from our local farmers and hearing their stories of how they love to work with the soil and make amazing food to share with us.
All of this warms my heart and makes me grateful for living in an amazing state with so much to offer. Here are some things about nature that I am most grateful for;
1. Nature Teaches You Resilience and Perseverance.
Growing up in Wisconsin you learn how to survive in the arctic tundra. The harshest of climates can still be amazing. We still talk about the huge snowstorms we had as kids and how many hours we spent outside building snow forts, sledding, snowmobiling or ice skating. In the summer, we would enjoy the thunderstorms and rain. I am still amazed at how green everything looks after a good soaking rain. Even if the storms damage an area, new growth is close behind as the forest knows how to replenish.
The same can hold true for our lives. Even when something tragic, traumatic or just plain stressful happens in our lives, we can look at it from a growth perspective and know that all will be fine. We can move forward with what we learned and know that we will persevere in whatever we set our minds to. Even in the harshest of climates or harshest of times, we can shift our paradigm to make things “green” again and move forward happy and proud.
2. Spring Always Follows Winter.
This is something that everyone living in Wisconsin fully embraces. Sometimes their winters are harsher than other years. We need to know the dark to appreciate the light. Colorado is the same; although, we do get more sunshine days than in Wisconsin which helps with mood and SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) diagnosis. When spring arrives we delight in warmer temps, blossoms on the trees, bulbs coming up and new bird songs to hear. Things will get brighter and better. Hope is here and it brings with it longer days and the joy of getting outside more to enjoy the smells, sights, sounds and even walking barefoot in the grass.
3. The Sun Shines Bright and Reminds Me To Do The Same.
The sun rises and sets every day without fail. We also rise and set every day and we get to create how we want our days to be filled. Starting your day with fresh, renewed hope and learning lessons can help create a magical day for yourself. The sun could be blocked by a cloud, but eventually that cloud moves away and the sun can shine bright again. You too can do the same throughout each day. If a stress “cloud” comes over you during the day, take a moment to recognize it, appreciate that “cloud” and allow it to move along as quickly as possible. Every day make a promise to yourself that you will strive to shine with renewed commitment, despite any dark “clouds” that come by. Create those coping strategies that help you move past the dark clouds and enjoy more of the sunshine.
4. Nature Grounds You.
Every time I am feeling anxious, worried or frustrated I make myself take a brisk walk around the block or down to our neighborhood park. I love to take a mindful walk using all of my senses. I look for three things the same color, listen for three different sounds, smell three different scents, touch three different textures and taste three different things on my tongue. Doing this helps ground me and brings me back to the present moment. Another amazing way to ground yourself is to walk outside barefoot through your grass. Imagine roots growing out of your feet down into the earth so you become one with nature. The sense of calm and tranquility that happens will surprise you. Laying down in the grass and watching the clouds go by can have the same effect.
5. Nature Has Taught Me the Beauty Of Silence.
One year as I was sitting on a ski lift taking me up to the highest peak, I realized I missed sitting in the quietness of the ride. The beauty of the peaceful ride up the side of a mountain as I looked at the surroundings, breathed in the crisp, fresh air I realized how much I enjoy calm, peace and quiet. I vowed that I would ski more often based off of that one ride up the mountain. Growing up near so many lakes I loved being able to take our canoe out on a lake and just sit and float. Watching the loons and ducks as I took in a sunset was one of my favorite ways to end a day. Taking my stand-up paddleboard to a lake and paddling out to lay and enjoy floating is one of my new favorite ways to incorporate more peace and calm into my life. Hiking into one of our many trails without seeing a person brings a sense of stillness. Camping and looking at the stars puts our life into perspective as we are just a bit of dust in the grand scheme of our world and adds to a feeling of serenity that is amazing to embrace.
6. Nature Has Taught Me To Never Give Up
I love sitting next to water, whether it is a lake or an ocean I always feel a complete sense of calm and could spend hours listening to the waves crash on shore. I love meditating near the waves and near a calm lake. The same goes for waterfalls and I try to find hikes that incorporate a creek, waterfall or river in it so I can hear the crashing of the water along the rocks. The constant movement of the water encourages me to never give up. Keep trying and don’t give up. You may have to break off and create your own tributary, but that is okay. Just keep moving along in what brings you happiness and joy.
“There is nothing more beautiful than the way the ocean refuses to stop kissing the shoreline, no matter how many times it’s sent away.” Sarah Kay.
7. Nurture and Care For Yourself To Coexist
Nature has a wonderful way of teaching us to take care of ourselves so you can also take care of others. Birds, bees and all animals guard and protect themselves and their loved ones, we are no exception. Nature teaches us to coexist with the plants, animals and humans who enjoy it’s simple pleasures. An apple tree will only produce apples as a plot of corn will only produce corn, yet we appreciate both of them for what they offer to us in different times of the seasons. The same goes for humans. We are all dramatically different, yet it is essential to celebrate our differences and see how they interweave into our daily lives for the better. We accept each other for what we can offer to our families, friends and community. We accept each other with love, compassion, empathy and joy, just like we do with the trees and flowers.
Nature can provide some magical lessons in gratitude. When you are connected to nature you feel different and when you haven’t been in nature in awhile you realize something is missing from your life. Take time to spend in nature in some way, shape or form. Researchers published a study in Frontiers in Psychology on how a taking a “20-minute Nature Pill” can help significantly lower your stress hormone levels. So much so, that General Practitioners are prescribing these instead of antidepressants.
How are you grateful for nature? What have you found that helps you de-stress and become more grounded?