Connecting to Nature for Mental Health

If you’re like me (and most people living through this pandemic), your mental health is at an all-time low. We yearn to be social and see our friends and loved ones and yet we are told that this is not allowed. I empathize with those who are feeling lonely and isolated. Our hearts need connection and while virtual meetings are on the rise, the physical connection and sensing each other's energy is something that I for one am missing. 

While this all sounds so bleak, I do have some advice: get into nature! Our sense of connection may be limited with other people, but no one can hold us back from connecting to our mother Earth. For me, I found solace in house plants and gardening. I always thought that I had a black thumb. I wanted plants but they did not want me! It wasn't until I took the time to connect with them and to see what they needed that they finally began to thrive. Now, undoubtedly, my plant collection has doubled (or even tripled) since the beginning of the pandemic and my responsibilities as a 3rd-year medical student have kept me quite busy, but in those small windows of freedom, I look to my plants and feel at peace. Interacting with them, whether it's watering, repotting, or even just picking off old leaves, is such a tangible reminder that I have some control in my crazy life. Watching new baby buds grow into new leaves brings a certain amount of joy that is really needed during these low times. 

Now, I get it, not everyone is as much into plants as I am. If that is you then find whatever it is that connects you to our natural world; be it as simple as walking through a park, hiking some trails, foraging for edible mushrooms, visiting a local farm, smelling the freshly picked products at a farmer’s market, or cooking with fresh ingredients. These seemingly small acts can have profound benefits to your mental-emotional health. My favourite Naturopathic principle is vis medicatrix naturae, which means the healing power of nature - and is that ever true! Nature cures, but it is up to us to implement it into our urban lives. 

Another simple way that I am incorporating nature into my life is by taking some mushroom extracts. My current favourite is Lion’s Mane (Hericium erinaceus). I take these guys to support my overflowing brain and to help with my focus (something that I have been having a hard time doing lately since most of my classes are virtual). These mushrooms also have the added benefit of reducing symptoms of anxiety and depression as well as boosting immunity, which go hand in hand in managing my way through this pandemic!

So, how will you incorporate nature into your day today?

By Angeli Santos -- BA Psyc and 3rd Year Student of Naturopathic Medicine, CCNM

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