If possible, close your eyes and start to breathe slowly for a moment. Continue this breathwork, while you read the guided imagery meditation:
You pull your car up to the trailhead, ready to explore an area you have been to many times. You step outside and feel the crisp air on your skin. You take a deep breath and notice smells of pine needles. As you start your walk, you notice the way that the trail wraps around the trees. You stop to notice the leaves falling from the tree. You notice the way that they seem to sparkle, while the wind blows between the branches. Some are yellow, some are brown, others bare. You watch the way the leaves float off the branches and onto the ground. You realized that you have witnessed nature transform before your eyes.
Walking or hiking in settings where you are focused on the nature in front of you, creates a distraction from the level of difficulty and allows your brain to experience visually, listen to what you are hearing or reading, and deepen your breath through noticing smells of the space around you. Walking outside for 20 to 30 minutes daily can lower your cortisol and adrenaline levels. By being introspective during this walk, it may provide even more of a mood boost to your experience!
The feeling of awe is something that not only nature, but arts such as poetry bring forward. Poetry therapy is a practice used to help someone process their emotions and communicate those emotions through a creative outlet. This may positively impact communication and empowerment skills along with other forms of therapy.
Spending time outdoors and exploring creative outlets gives the opportunity to experience emotions of gratitude, love, and wonder. When we express gratitude or thankfulness, our brain releases dopamine and serotonin. These are the “feel good” hormones that enhance our mood and bring joy to experiences. Gratitude impacts positive thinking, which is proven to reduce anxiety, depression, increase coping skills, and build resilience.
The Wellness Champions: Arts and Humanities Group, spent a fall Friday afternoon walking the trails in Michigan and virtually, listening, reading, and reflecting on poetry selected by their peers. Their testimonials share the impact the poetry readings had on their nature walk experience:
“I had a tremendous experience attending the Arts & Humanities Poetry in the Park event. I learned that I enjoy poetry and saw the benefits on my stress levels & overall anxiety. I felt at peace and could really embrace the beauty & excellence of nature. Listening to the poetry transformed my experience and made it more real. The words became senses. I could visualize the poem, and this was the most important part because it made me focus on the nature around me. My stressful events at the time melted away. I was not thinking of what I was going to do for the weekend or if I finished everything I could that week. I was at peace for an hour with co-workers who were willing to embrace and partake in a similar experience. My emotions were positive, and I got out of my comfort zone, challenging myself in a new way.”
-Robby Wilson, Marketing Team
“What was perhaps most impactful for me was hearing the variations in the voice recordings. Everyone interprets poetry differently, and I felt that was reflected in the way each person read their specific poem. We value poetry and the written word in general because we all recognize just how difficult it is to capture a feeling or an emotion with words. Articulating those emotions, especially in the context of nature, is a manifestation of a universal desire to be able to communicate what are normally complex and near-indescribable realities of our minds. Aside from that, hearing a unique perspective on aspects of nature that you most assuredly see and/or experience every day breathes new life into them.”
-Rex Curtis, Account Analyst
“I LOVED the poem entitled, “Nothing Gold Can Stay”, because it reminded me to savor each moment as I was experiencing them. I even listened to it twice, so that I could be reminded of the transient nature of life and to appreciate the moment. I listened to it as I watched the sunrise and felt peace and present mindedness. I appreciated each individual voice I heard. I was so great to feel connected to people that I have barely (or not) met. I felt like I was a part of the team.”
-Asset Health Employee