Improve Your Mental Health by Getting in Touch With Mother Earth
Photo Credit: Gary Barnes/Pexels
Psychological flexibility means “making contact fully with the present moment as a conscious human being and based on what the situation affords changing or persisting in behavior in the service of chosen values.” Instead of allowing ourselves to be derailed by thoughts and feelings (e.g., “I’m not enough” or feelings of fear and anxiety), we learn to hold our thoughts and feelings lightly, engage in ways that allow us to be in the here and now, and continuously ask ourselves, “What matters most to me? What is important to me in this moment? And how can I act in a way that is aligned with this?” Psychological flexibility has been shown to be connected with improved mental health.
Connecting with Mother Earth can be a powerful thing when it comes to our own mental health. We know from research that 120 minutes outdoors allows for decreased stress and improved overall well-being. Our environment is constantly changing around us. However, if we get lost in our mind while out on a walk, or drive on autopilot from work to home, we miss the changes that are happening moment to moment.
So how can we use contacting the present moment and honoring Mother Earth to help us improve our mental health? Here are four ways you can try today.
Create a garden
Building and tending to a garden daily allows you to practice being present by touching the earth. This can be one way that we can self-regulate and calm the nervous system. It is also a powerful way of getting outside of our minds. If you tend to a garden while thinking about your work project, you might miss the changes and needs of the garden in front of you.
Walk to your destination mindfully
Or go for a mindful walk around the block as a way to get present. Movement is a powerful strategy for resetting our nervous systems and dealing with stress. When you are on your walk, avoid getting on the phone or having something in your ears. Instead, focus on using all of your senses. What do you see? What do you hear? What can you feel (e.g., wind on your face, the sidewalk or grass that you are walking on)? What do you smell or taste? This exercise can help you shift from difficult thoughts and feelings and get back into the present moment.
Feet on the ground each day
Allow yourself to put your feet on grass or soil every day, engaging in a grounding exercise of focusing on the sensations around your feet. Grounding helps to reduce stress and cope with difficult feelings in the moment, helping you to down-regulate intense emotions and coming back to a state of being calm.
Mantra to stay grounded and present
When we are present with Mother Earth, we are reminded that she ebbs and flows through changes and seasons and that she is never the same. It is a powerful metaphor to remember that we, too, are different each day, including the decision of what value we must nurture at any given time. One way to help us get back into the present moment is through a mantra that you can repeat to yourself during times when you experience hard thoughts and feelings. I would like to offer this one to practice: “I have everything I need.” (Trevor Hall, ‘Everything I Need”)
Allowing yourself to be flexible in your experiences and make contact with the present moment through Mother Earth can allow you to experience improved mental health wellness.
This post is part of a month-long April CircleAround series, tied to Earth Day. A 2018 UN report warned that, as relates to climate change, we had until 2030 to make drastic changes to avoid irreversible negative consequences. We asked writers — and readers — to share news and advice on what we all can do to help, or stories on inspirational women in the climate space. To see all the posts in the series, visit here. And if you'd like to contribute to the series, send us your thoughts to info@circlearound.