Natural Ways to Soothe Your Anxious Mind
A good brisk walk is often recommended to help ease stress and anxiety.
But have you heard of ‘Awe Walks?’ They differ from from ‘Stride-outs’ which is my name for a daily brisk walk through the woods or on the heath. That’s the kind of walk where pace is the aim rather than standing still for moments to absorb the atmosphere of the place and ‘smell the roses.’
Forest Bathing (Shinrin-Yoku) is also recommended to reduce anxiety and stress but again, it has a different focus. In forest bathing, we draw attention to our senses as our eyes and ears tune into the natural surroundings. An average time for forest bathing can be 2hours as the mind and body begin to settle into a state of quiet or resonance with the presence of the living world.
Awe Walks have a slightly different aim. In fact more time might be spent standing still than actually moving!
They are short periods in nature or the park where something as small as a glistening spider’s web in the sunshine to the vast vista of a mountain range can open up a sense of wonder, awe and appreciation within. And when that happens our hearts open, our minds expand beyond the confines of our everyday worries and feel good hormones are release into the bloodstream.
Most of us do not have the mountain ranges or holiday destination scenery on our back doorstep yet the awakening of our subtle senses can happen by just looking into a hedgerow!
When we behold the vast beauty of nature or the miraculous intricate pattern in a flower, tree bark or insect wing we are reminded of a greater power or intelligence at work.
When we pause to really listen to the sound of a robin’s song or the rough caw of a crow flying overhead we may notice something stirring deeply within. Seeping through our veins we can feel a life force and reverence as we reunite with an essence that transcends our limited understanding of the World around us.
The effects of Awe Walks for mental health
Psychologists who have researched studies on the effects of Awe Walks for mental health have noticed an interesting side effect. People who were asked to record their experiences on their phone or camera started to forget the ‘selfie’ image with themselves in the foreground and the scene behind them. They started to make their image/importance smaller and the surrounding vista the dominant feature.
The study also found that those participants in the study also exhibited more socially cooperative behaviour.
Dr Paul Piff, University of California, states “Scientists were surprised at how consistently different types of awe and different elicitors of awe were able to promote cooperative behaviour. In one experiment, they elicited awe by showing droplets of coloured water falling into a bowl of milk in slow motion. In another, they elicited a negative form of awe using a montage of threatening natural phenomena, such as tornadoes and volcanoes. In a final experiment, the researchers induced awe by situating participants in a grove of towering eucalyptus trees.”
“Across all these different elicitors of awe, we found the same sorts of effects — people felt smaller, less self-important, and behaved in a more pro-social fashion,… Might awe cause people to become more invested in the greater good, giving more to charity, volunteering to help others, or doing more to lessen their impact on the environment? Our research would suggest that the answer is yes.”
Of course, non of this would be news to those who practice Bhakti (devotional) yoga with its roots in ancient Vedic tradition of India.
Or the Christian saints and Sufi mystics whose reverence for the God/Good in all things helped elevate their consciousness to one of love and devotion which quite naturally spread within their families and wider community… just as the current research is confirming.
In the Bhakti Yoga tradition the ‘object’ is an expression of deity, in the form of Guru, or Hindu God which reflects an aspect of the One eternal presence which is ultimately a reflection of our inner nature.
For those who prefer a more Earth based or Pagan spirituality, anything within the natural World that induces an open hearted appreciation and gratitude for Life can have the effect of expanding heart openness and creating a strong mind-heart coherence.
Our Hearts become shielded over time
Our hearts become shielded over time.
Pain and heartbreak is something that can not be avoided in Life but our hearts can learn to flower again.
By learning to consciously invoke feelings of love/appreciation and a sense of Awe, the energetic connection between our hearts and brain strengthens into a harmonious communication channel.
We are no longer ‘a brain on a stalk’ disconnected from our feelings and emotions, but a coherent flow moving in alignment with our greater intelligence and body. Integrated Beings aligned with the Cosmos and the Earth, and more empowered to live a balanced life.
The HeartMath Institute states,“by using practical, positive emotion refocusing techniques designed to enhance states of appreciation, individuals can learn to self-orchestrate coherence with increased consistency, thereby reducing stress and enhancing health, emotional stability, performance and quality of life.”
Researchers created the Awe Subscale
The awe subscale is a self-reported survey that asks participants to indicate their level of agreement with each of the following items on a 1 to 7 scale:
I often feel awe.
I see beauty all around me.
I feel wonder almost every day.
I often look for patterns in the objects around me.
I have many opportunities to see the beauty of nature.
I seek out experiences that challenge my understanding of the world.
For those who are unable to go for walks in the fresh air, just looking at calming images of Nature can help to reduce stress and calm and soothe the anxious mind.
Something as simple as watching a video of leaves waving in the breeze or gently lapping water reminds the subconscious mind to link that imagery with a sense of peace. And the body responds beautifully.
So I invite you to not only stop and “smell the roses” but to watch the radiant sunlight ripple through the branches of your nearest tree and notice how the tiniest bird can sing its whole being through its small body. Notice her song; a melody flowing from a single instrument, its beak ,that even the greatest orchestra can not compete with.
Now….. I call that…. truly …..AWESOME!”
Below, are two Virtual Awe walks through a small Suffolk Woodland called ‘The Staverton Thicks.’
For Virtual Awe Walks please like and subscribe to my You Tube channel The Tame Wild