Nature and the Mind, Body, and Spirit

Disconnect from distractions to reconnect with nature

By Jon Copsey, marketing manager

When was the last time you were out in nature and simply just listened to the sounds around you? No phones, no distractions. Maybe you picked up a pile of leaves and let them blow away in the wind. Or maybe you just observed a tree, listened to it, felt it, connected with it. What did nature tell you?

Our lives today are ruled by our devices. We live in a society that is always going a million miles a minute. With all the pressure this kind of society creates, it’s not surprising that people are looking for new ways to not only get out in nature and disconnect, but also to heal.

The members of the Cancer Support Community Atlanta, affiliated with Northside Hospital, often get into nature as a part of the healing process, said Christy Andrews, executive director.

“Being in nature is meaningful to the people who come to these programs,” Andrews said. “Stepping into the outdoors is such a serene and very healing place to be.” She said that when someone has gone through a cancer diagnosis and treatment, healing is important. “One of the big components of the cancer support community is stress management,” Andrews said. “When you are placed in a calming location, it can have a healing ability.”

One program at the Chattahoochee Nature Center, in Roswell, Ga., “Well-Being in the Woods,” does just that, using the practices from “forest bathing” and mindful presence to offer a quiet, deeply peaceful experience in nature. This is done by taking participants out into the woods and letting them connect with the peacefulness of nature, far away from their busy lives.

Kim Saunders is a teacher at Lift Yoga, of Alpharetta. She is also a breast cancer survivor and promotes the healing powers of the natural world. Saunders said being outdoors complements the classes she does in nature.

“Nature enhances our yoga practice in some amazing ways,” she said. “A recent Swedish study found that viewing nature and breathing fresh air increases wakeful relaxation and internal focus, which are both rewarding components for a yoga practice. Spending time in nature can replenish depleted energy and increase feelings of vigor and vitality, helping you to feel more energized, aware and empowered. So go play, and practice, outside.”

CNC partners with many community groups to help connect people with nature. One such group is the Roswell-based Restore Health Group, which specializes in helping clients with acquired and traumatic brain injuries.

“There is a benefit to being in a peaceful, natural setting,” said Stacey Cecil, a physical therapy assistant with Restore. “Being around people and cities can be overstimulating. People with brain injuries need peace and quiet to calm their minds.”

Cecil and Restore bring a group of their clients to CNC nearly every week to work in the Unity Garden and tend to the chickens CNC keeps. They feed them, clean out the coop and spend time with the animals. “We started looking after the chickens,” Cecil said. “It makes the guys feel valued, and they are able to share what they know about the chickens with visitors. Taking care of something, whether it’s by themselves or part of a team, is valuable to them. It takes you outside your own head. When you suffer from brain injuries, you are often focused on what happened to you. It’s therapeutic to help someone or something else, so you’re not focused in a loop of depression about what has happened to you.”

Whether it’s working in a garden, walking hiking trails or paddling along the river, being in nature allows you to take a breath and relax your mind, body, and spirit.