How often to you find yourself unable to stop thinking about something that went wrong? The more your think about it the more insurmountable it seems (and the more overwhelmed and hopeless you feel) If you’d like to bounce back more quickly from life’s challenges, and gain a way to transform your life for good, read on…
Why brooding makes everything worse
For many people getting stuck in a negative thought spiral happens regularly, if not daily. All it takes is a criticism from a colleague or boss, or an argument with your partner and you can’t seem to stop chewing over what went wrong, and moreover what’s wrong with you and and your life. You play the scenario over and over and pretty soon everything feels bad and your whole life sucks.
Call it rumination, brooding or fretting, this broken-record focus on negative events is not healthy or helpful and can lead to states of sustained low mood and eventually depression. While its shown that this negative bias is evolutionary (we are designed to look for potential threats) worrying over things endlessly is something more within our control.
And one cure for brooding and rumination sits right at your feet. Literally.
Stopping those repetitive thoughts and the low moods that accompany them could be as simple as putting one foot in front of the other and taking a walk. Only to get the benefits you can’t just walk around your city block, or run a treadmill at the gym or saunter through a shopping centre, you’ll need to carry yourself to a park, or green space, and walk in the great outdoors.
The hidden costs of urban living
Recent studies from Standord University have found that “urban dwellers with little access to green spaces have a higher incidence of psychological problems than people living near parks.” While that may not be so surprising, when city dwellers visit natural environments their stress hormones immediately afterward are lower than people who have not recently been outside suggesting there is a way to reverse of combat the effects of city life.
Accepting the evidence that living in an urban environment, or spending the majority of your time inside in an office block, may contribute to anxiety, depression and other mental health issues is an important first step to countering this unintended consequence of modern life. Now you can do something about it, for example by choosing to live in a leafier suburb or plant a garden.
However if you still spend most of your time indoors, at work or watching television, you’re be missing out on the positive effects of time spent in nature that previous generations enjoyed.
The nature cure
An amazing thing happens when we’re surrounded by nature, our brain actually undergoes changes that result in all sorts of positive benefits in our overall health, and one of the specific outcomes scientific studies point to is that we are less likely to brood.
At a physiological level brain scans on test subjects show that blood flow to the subgenual prefrontal cortex–which is active while we are brooding–is quietened or reduced when we walk in a park or forest and in a way that doesn’t happen walking along a busy highway.
My take on this is that whilst out amongst the trees and birds we are more likely to be in touch with our surroundings. We evolved in nature so being surrounded by it’s gifts (and away from sabre toothed tigers) we relax and notice the information coming through our senses in a way that we don’t in a crowded street or an underground carpark. Being in nature brings about a present moment awareness that pulls us back to the now and out of dwelling inside our heads.
Either way, it’s clear that spending time in green spaces lowers stress and brings about all sorts of physiological changes, boosting our immune system and cognitive response as well as mood. Spending time in nature actually changes our brains for the better–and helps us develop better coping strategies for life’s annoyances.
Time to start walking
If you or something you know could benefit from getting out into nature more often Soul Food Sundays might be the perfect opportunity. Starting on March 5 you’ll take weekly guided walks in nature where you can slow down and connect to your inner landscape as well the very rich, living one that surrounds you.
Each walk you’ll tune into a different sense and deepen your level of awareness. The opposite of boot camp, the weekly walks are complemented by two wellbeing workshops where you will have a chance to practice mindfulness meditation, restorative yoga, deep listening, creating journalling and to rebalance your life with a regular walking practice. You’ll be fed by the stories of other wise women, along with healthy and delicious whole foods. In all, its a program to nourish your soul.
Enquire now and if you bring a friend you’ll both receive $50 off.