“In the presence of nature, a wild delight runs through the man, in spite of real sorrows.” –Ralph Waldo Emerson
In the winter do you hibernate? Do you spend too much time indoors on the computer, texting on your cell, answering a barrage of never ending emails, watching television for hours at a time? Or, do you get outside and enjoy the beauty of nature and the fresh air?
After sitting at a computer all day, responding to texts, traveling in my car for work and being cooped up inside my body, mind and soul call out for time in nature. For me, being outside in the cold fresh air is invigorating. Taking long walks in the woods, in the summer walking barefoot, sitting near a tree, on a bench or in the winter lying in the snow letting the snowflakes tickle my cheeks is an awakening experience.
During my last eye exam the Ophthalmologist asked if I spent time in nature and I said, “Yes, as often as possible.” Even though I’ve had glasses since 2nd grade (didn’t really wear them as prescribed until I was 19) my eyes have been improving over the last several year. This time he shared that my eye muscles are very healthy and my prescription was reduced once again. That was the first time I learned that being in nature can strengthen our eye muscles.
I’m not a doctor but have read, spoke with doctors and through my own experiences noticed that when sitting at the computer all day I don’t blink enough, my head and neck are bent for long periods of time, and there is little movement as my eyes focus on the screen or my cell when answering texts. This effects my posture and the constant typing and use of the mouse effect my fingers, hands, arms and shoulders.
What better way to counter act this daily strain than by taking a break from sitting at the desk and taking a walk outside. Or, stopping on the way home for a nice walk in nature. The varying colors of nature benefit the eyes. I found this article on the benefits to children’s eye health to be interesting:
Here are some pictures of two of my grandchildren enjoying nature. Whether picking blueberries (eating more than what went into the bucket), sauntering through the woods, hugging and/or talking to trees, walking barefoot in the grass they all enjoy spending time in nature.
Part of the benefits to the eyes is due to the color green which is soothing and another reason is the eyes relax while in nature and benefit from a workout just like the muscles in our legs. Here is an article I found on the effects of a green environment:
When walking or sitting in nature we look up, out in the distance, and close up at nature’s gifts, giving our eyes a work out. (You can also stop throughout the day and do a figure 8 movement with your eyes for additional exercise.) We also give them a workout as we check out the movement of the little critters skittering from here to there, busy no matter the season. By sitting still in the sit-spot I noticed that they seem to have little roadways to and from their nests. You can also watch rabbits on their adventures. They stop a little longer here and there along the way. If you are still and down wind they may not even notice you. I’ve had this happen with deer. They walk by without noticing if you are still and they can’t smell you.
Don’t get too close to the squirrel or you will hear them shriek like this little guy. I was sitting in a sit-spot at the bottom of a tree in Congress Park in Saratoga Springs, NY when I heard a shriek. I looked out to the trees around me but couldn’t find where the noise was coming from. Thinking it was a bird I looked up. There a few feet above my head, was this squirrel running up and down the tree. I stood up slowly backed away from the tree. She ran up the tree trunk to the branch above. The shrieking did not stop. Look at her tail giving a warning signal. As I looked around in the next tree I noticed a nest. She must have been warning me to stay away from her nest. She finally quieted down and jumped to the other tree. I quietly went on my way so she could relax and found another tree.
I could not share my own recording as my recordings have recently disappeared from my cell but found this video on YouTube. This is what the squirrel alarm sounds like:
The shrieking can last for quite some time and become very loud. Once again, watching the squirrel and checking out the area gave my eyes a nice workout and I learned a little more about nature. It was the first time that a squirrel has come that close to me in a warning stance. Guess I chose the wrong tree for my sit-spot and she was not willing to share.
Along with observing squirrels, mindfully sitting in my sit-spot just before sunrise allowed me to witness the awaking of the forest. There is a slow illumination along the tops of the trees which gently seeps through the gaps in the trees eventually illuminating the forest floor. As it casts it’s light the yellow leaves of the Aspen trees appear to glow. Some of the leaves slowly hitch a ride on a slight breeze, spiraling round and round until softly landing on the branch of a Hemlock tree. There were so many decorating some of the trees it resembled a Christmas tree.
The leaves were the decorations, with the sunlight reflected in the morning dew the lights. I didn’t have a camera in the morning to capture the dew reflecting the light because I was enjoying the moment. Some spiraled gently to the forest floor, greeting those who came before, layering the earth in a blanket of leaves.
Looking up at trees towering above I witness the mighty tree stretching up into the sky above with its many arms reaching out in all directions. Bare in the Fall and Winter this is the resting period as it awaits a bursting of renewal in the Spring.
My eyes wander far, then closer and closer until, once again, I witness the scurrying of the chipmunks and squirrels gathering acorns and carrying them back to their shelter.
We should not just saunter and enjoy the benefits of nature ourselves. Sharing a nature connection with children is the best way to keep them healthy and teach them about the benefits of nature and connecting with their environment. Plus, their little eyes are always scanning the environment which is a plus for their eye health because many of the children today spend too many hours in front of a screen, many times holding a device too close to their eyes. We are only beginning to see the effects.
“In every walk with Nature one receives far more than one seeks.” – John Muir
The benefits of nature are far reaching. It reduces anger, fear, and stress while increasing pleasant experiences and we become healthier, more creative, and more aware of our natural environment.
So get outside, saunter in the woods, near a stream, ocean, local park, garden, in your own backyard, take some children with you and explore. While outside look up at the stars, clouds, the tree tops, trails, the bark, flowers, the critters, dragonflies, and a little closer at the insects. Don’t forget to touch the bark, the leaves, the grass and bend down to smell the flowers. Walk barefoot and feel the earth beneath you. Sit for a while and take in your environment.
Remember while you are viewing the natural world and strengthening the muscles in your eyes you are also strengthening other muscles in your body, increasing your lung capacity by breathing in fresh air, expanding your mind and spirit. It is a win-win situation.
If you are interested in learning about mindfulness outdoor experiences and how to slow down and connect while in nature please email me or complete the attachment below. I would love to hear from you.
In my next post I will share some upcoming Mindfulness Outdoor Experiences that I will be leading in February and March.
Love and Light!