Giles Ringer, a long-time advocate for the mental, emotional and spiritual value of spending time outdoors facilitated an interactive public presentation on the Therapeutic Value of Nature. Every seat in the Morden library was filled for this fascinating Nature Talk on November 18th.

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Giles led us through a series of exercises. The first exercise was to think of a spot in nature where we have felt positive emotions. My mind quickly went to the North Creek bend at the A Rocha Pembina Valley Interpretive Centre where erosion has caused a hollow to form on the corner of the creek with plenty of rocks to sit on. This activity was important because we don’t often slow down enough to realize how being in nature makes us feel; doing so amplifies the therapeutic qualities of spending time in nature.

Why do we go into nature?
Studies have shown extensive health benefits from being in nature. Even having a view of the outdoors increases focus and clarity of thought, reduces stress, shortens hospital stays, decreases depression, and improves our para-sympathetic nervous systems, which help regulate our everyday bodily functions.

When asked, the group said that we also go into nature to exercise, re-energize, have fun, and engage our senses. Many of us actually feel a hunger for nature. Sometimes we even want to experience the more extreme weather like rain and cold.

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What do these objects and photos bring to mind for you? The group shared a surprising variety of thoughts on each of them.

Breathing
Giles also taught us about breathing to maximize the health benefits of spending time outdoors. Specifically, breathing in deeply through your nose and out through your mouth. He describes this to his children as ‘smelling flowers’ and ‘blowing bubbles’. It is also important to breathe from your stomach instead of your chest, making sure that your stomach expands as you breathe in and contracts as you breathe out. This is a valuable exercise in reducing stress even indoors or in urban areas; but being in nature increases the effects.

Valuing Nature
We were also reminded that nature is divinely created and outside of our creative capacity. Since we cannot recreate it, creation deserves special respect. We receive so much from nature: food, materials for creating, peace, health, adventure and a sense of awe. It is reasonable that we would give back to nature by preserving habitat and enabling plants and animals to thrive.

Guided Nature Prayer-Walk
To conclude the evening we participated in a guided meditation. This is an exercise for returning to a peaceful place in nature when it is impractical to physically go there. I went to A Rocha Pembina Valley Interpretive Centre’s North Creek. We then imagined a bag where we could place the concerns causing us stress. We can then take out and deal with the concerns one at a time when feeling stronger.