That’s a crab. His name is Bernard. We met him on a recent trip to the beach for some relaxation and downtime. He captured our attention as he was quietly digging a hole in the sand beside us. We’d watch as he disappeared below, then tip-toe to the surface, checking to make sure no one was watching, and then fling a clawful of sand to the side. What held my attention to Bernard was not so much that it was humorous – it certainly was but the novelty of it faded long before my gaze did – but the mere simplicity of observation.
Stretched out on a beach, I was allowed to observe, to not have my attention pulled involuntarily. Free to meander mindlessly and envision endlessly. For me, that type of disconnect isn’t restricted to only shorelines. Being in nature, wherever, has always put me in a deeper connection with not only the external environment, but also my greenhouse of emotions.
Turns out, I’m not alone in that a little slice of nature benefits the mind. Research suggests that children who grew up with more green space within their local area, have a decreased chance of developing psychiatric disorders like depression, anxiety, schizophrenia, and OCD later in life even after adjusting for family history and socioeconomic factors. “Green space” allows greater opportunities for physical activities, social interactions, and quiet getaways. It makes sense that exercise, human connection, removal of technology, and avoiding the constant bustle of a city leads to improved mental health and awareness.
I could have been part of this study. My affection with the outdoors undoubtedly stems from my childhood. I lived outside. From the time it was acceptable to knock on my friends door in the morning to the time the lamp posts came on, I was biking, playing sports, on a trampoline, in the woods, or lounging with friends. Now older, green space is my personal window to self-awareness.
Much like the beach, it is an opportunity to CHOOSE my focus. Whether it is reflection on the past or preparing for the future, the outdoors offers physical and mental breathing room. The ability to stretch the legs and the mind concurrently is freeing. Watching Bernard digging a hole is equally carefree and transfixing.
This introvert prefers going out(side). In a year where outside is publicly safer it is also psychologically safer. We all have temporary stress or anxiety and sun, fresh air, and greenery are natural and free medicines. If your walls are seemingly getting closer, get rid of them. If your mind is noisy, offset it with trees whistling, wildlife whispering. If your world is overrun with digital colors, limit the spectrum to natural green.