Toolkit – UNDERSTANDING NATURE'S CONNECTION TO SELF-CARE
Words by Taneshia Atkinson
“You didn’t come into this world, you came out of it, like a wave from the ocean. You are not a stranger here.”
Alan W Watts.
Over centuries, many of us have developed a sense of being separate from nature, which is forgivable considering we spend most of our time in a digital landscape. To understand nature's connection to self-care, we must first however remember that we are nature. We were born from and continue to be sustained by nature.
When I think about many of the foundations that built me and my experience living away from my own Country, I often think about my lessons outside of the classroom in primary school – where we spent time with mob from the Bundjalung community who have sustained the areas of Northern NSW and Southeast Queensland since time immemorial. As children, we planted spinifex to build sand dunes, teaching us the power of connectedness. We witnessed a whale carcass being devoured by sharks off Fingal Headland which whilst confronting, allowed us to sit more comfortably with and understand the cycle of life. We witnessed turtles nesting which showed us the delicacy of life and the instinct to support our kin to survive. Nature has been my biggest teacher.
Using nature as a form of self-care is simply a return to our being, like returning home.
So not to sound too pseudoscientific, let’s get some science behind this. The building blocks and shape of DNA molecules in humans, plants and every living thing is the same. It’s only the order of the molecules that make us different.
So now that we know that – how are some ways to use nature as self-care?
Learn more about the Traditional Country you are on. Across many First Nations knowledges – the weather seasons are different to the typical generic ‘four seasons’ we have been taught. And just like the weather, our existence is cyclical. There is a season for cleansing, for blossoming, for returning and for hibernating. Honour the cycle – there’s a reason we feel bluer in winter!
Connect with your senses while outside. A method that my therapist taught me was to return to your senses and recognise your surroundings outside – what are five things you can see, smell, feel etc.? This is particularly useful for mindfulness and regulating our emotions.
Ground yourself with the earth – more on this in a recent Self Care Originals Article.
Spend time in sunshine. – i.e get more Vitamin D! Vitamin D is so important for our health.
Spend time in a body of water – and nope, not just a swimming pool! Studies show that sea swimming is transformative, and causes changes in our mind body and identity, enabling a greater sense of belonging and place; and disrupts our sense of time, space and body allowing us to find alternative perspectives about our place in the world.
Look at the sky at night. Okay, I’ll admit this one is a bit woo-woo but I always believed the constellations in the sky reflect our own human complexities just like a mirror, which allows me to honour myself deeper and find greater forgiveness. There’s nothing like looking at the sky to remind us of our place in the world.
Remember, you didn’t come into this world, you came out of it. You are not a stranger here.
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