Have you ever hugged a tree and enjoyed it?
Most days I check-in with LinkedIn, reading and adding my own posts, mostly business-centric or stories that inspire, to the many fantastic marketing related ideas - all with their aim of further helping our professional practices. As a freelancer, I have to wear many hats. Making sure I'm keeping up-to-date with all that needs to be done for my business but also taking care of my family needs and home life, even booking family holidays can result in being very stressful. We're all so incredibly busy or are we're keeping up the illusion that we are all actually very busy. Personally, I am very busy, which is a good thing, but this can also can be a double-edged sword, finding time for myself, just to wind-down is incredibly essential for ones well being.
For instance, two days ago, I was in the heart of the City of London - checking out locations and venues for a large corporate law firm's new photo-shoot which I'm putting together in a week's time. This particular day was a hot one, and of course, the city of London was at its usual frenetic self. The almost rhythmical city drumbeat of sounds and white noise, collided together producing a constant cacophony as a backdrop to the hustle and bustle of the city. From noisy motorbikes and buses, chattering schoolchildren, the never-ending building site constructions - overheard conversations on smartphones, the distinct smells of lunchtime snacks to the almost chokingly thick pollution hanging in the air, all life is here in this part of the town. But for all its faults, London is a city I love. But I also take great pleasure in leaving the city, the city where I was born, to somewhere with a slower pace of life, a place that's a lot less frenetic.
My next day's commission - for the Suffolk Wildlife Trust - was to photograph one of the Trust's learning classes taking place at Bradfield Woods, near Bury St. Edmunds. I was asked to capture, visually, the essence of their mindfulness and wellbeing class which had been running for some weeks. The images were needed to promote the courses on their posters, brochures and also for their website. The course entailed spending a morning in the woods practising mindfulness and nature connection techniques, discovering new methods aimed at re-energising one's self through nature, slowing down, listening; to look with intention and absorbing the smells of the woods and the environment around us. The afternoon ended with us cooking our lunch over the fire. I came to this assignment with an opened mind, purely intent on taking a backseat, observing and illustrating the day in the best way I could. But I was soon drawn into the programme of events, almost forgetting to take pictures at one point. It's very rare that I get a chance to really slow down, to actually listen to bird song, to look at my surroundings with purpose and intent at the nature around me. Even when walking our dog, or walking with friends, do I ever purposefully slow down and actually listen, taking in the beauty of the world around us, to just stop for a while and smell nature.
I know some of you reading this might think this as new aged hokum or pretentious nonsense, but when you're in the hands of a knowledgeable guide taking us through some simple techniques, we were able to slow our pace and immerse ourselves into the environment. The impact of this mindfulness practice and feelings of connectivity, and subsequently how outdoor experiences and green space impact feelings of wellbeing, and even hormonal regulation have been studied and proven to be beneficial to us all. Watching and photographing others connecting with the trees and the fauna in the woods lent a particular therapeutic and almost restorative immersion with the nature around us. A sense of wellbeing and renewal from a meditative state of being was lovely to see and to photograph.
It's easy to get caught in the rhythm of the day and not seek out time to be with nature. For me, life can be a rush, working from home, making new work contacts, marketing and learning new disciplines, looking after children and other home life activities plus many other life necessities can easily and do take over and become the norm. However, having now seen and understood some of the benefits from interconnecting with nature, and the importance of connectivity with nature — which in turn can lead to a greater sense of wellbeing and the lowering of stress levels. Mindfulness can help us all to break away from the automatic schedule and pursue some restorative time with nature. So before dismissing or more likely ignoring the idea of mindfulness and well being with nature, you should really give it a go and experience it for yourself, you might be surprised to find how good it really is for you and us all.