Soil is our 'soul' medicine
You may have come across the phrase ‘housitosis’ before, aka; too much time stuck within the four walls of your home. We can all suffer from it and may feel ‘play’ deprived, as we will be missing out on the opportunity for ‘mud-luscious and puddle-wonderful’ experiences, as Lucy Jones (2020) calls them!
Did you know that 75% of children spend less time outdoors than prison inmates do (Carrington, 2016)? But the wild can provide a natural buffer to our life stresses, offering us natural feel-good chemicals that improve our mood. So, what can you do to boost your ‘dosage’ of nature?
How to boost your 'dose of nature' with a nature prescription
Fancy feeling more confident, happy and healthy? Well according to 90% of pupils from 125 schools, time spent outdoors did just that for them! (Williams, 2016 in Jones 2020).
Who doesn’t want to promote social and psychological growth within themselves and their children? Being outdoors is one of the more simple ways to promote recovery from setbacks and illnesses, and in such a non-stigmatising way. We aren’t labelling people as ‘disordered’ or ‘diagnosing’. Instead, we all might benefit from a ‘nature prescription’ - something that already has been a successful initiative rolled out by doctors, to people in their communities who are experiencing both emotional and physical suffering (Carell, 2018).
For instance, as you read this, what do you imagine that seeing wildlife, taking in scenic views and natural shapes, hearing birds and connecting your feet to solid ground, would do to YOUR spirits? It has been reported that ‘nature heals the agonies of grief’. And from my experience working alongside adults and young people, that’s where the ‘outdoors’ and ‘therapy’ really shows it’s true calibre; helping people connect to their distress, offering a safe space for it, and then moving towards more positive internal moods, states, feelings and perspectives.
I have witnessed people becoming ‘more’ of themselves; somehow evolving and transforming, just in the same way that nature embodies for us, as it survives and thrives alongside the elements it faces.
Working as a therapist outdoors, I have seen people use green spaces for contemplative recuperation, to connect to their own body awareness, gut instincts and wisdom. Allow yourself to ‘dip your toes’, or ‘step foot’ in a wild and open natural space to promote your emotional & physical health journey. See what nature mirrors back to you! And if you can, invite an outdoor therapist to step into your story alongside you. Parks, fields, gardens; head for the green and find yourself some headspace!
Learning, playing and imagining are all possibilities when outdoors, for all ages. Were you aware that important words including ‘heron’, ‘magpie’ and ‘acorn’ were among the words removed from the Oxford children’s dictionary in 2007 (Jones, 2020)? A term called ‘nature deficit disorder’ has been created to highlight that we spend only 1-5% of our time outdoors nowadays, but this has led to us being less able to concentrate, and our senses becoming dulled, among many other things, including feeling more fatigue. Being outside and reconnecting with our bodies, reduces our chances of experiencing low mood and anxious feelings, as well as improve symptoms of ADD and ADHD.
Now I am not going to suggest that we start eating soil, however, it has been recommended, because of the huge health benefits! If left to their own devices, babies gravitate to eating soil (Rook, 2013, in Jones, 2020). Contact with soil and dirt improves our immune system and our gut health, which both have a huge link to improving our psychological health. So, at the very least; please give yourself permission to explore, play, and get muddy! See what sensations, emotions and levels of vitality emerge for you. Did you find that nature nurtures you?
These are just some of the reasons why I am so grateful to work ‘in, with and through’ nature as a restorative and resourcing tool; soil as 'soul medicine' for wellbeing, to connect to and take care of, the cycles of grief and seasons of joy within my own psychological landscape, and also in service of the people I work alongside as a therapist working within natural environments.
References taken with special thanks for the incredible research and interviews carried out by Lucy Jones and her contributors within her nourishing book below. (I highly recommend it if you are interested in learning more about 'why our minds need the wild').
Carell, S. (2018) Scottish GPs to begin prescribing rambling and birdwatching The Guardian (Online, accessed 25.2.22) https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2018/oct/05/scottish-gps-nhs-begin-prescribing-rambling-birdwatching
Carrington, D. (2016) Three-quarters of UK children spend less time outdoors than prison inmates – survey (Online, Accessed 25.2.22) https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/mar/25/three-quarters-of-uk-children-spend-less-time-outdoors-than-prison-inmates-survey
Clinebell, H. The journal of pastoral care, Fall 1994, Vol 48 Greening Pastoral Care (sagepub.com)
Jones, L. (2020) Losing Eden, Why our minds need the wild Penguin Books.