Nurturing Our Relationship with Nature
rē•connect with the environment during Earth Month and beyond
With the arrival of springtime, a necessary focus is placed on Mother Earth. When we connect to nature, a healing power that transcends the mind, body, and spirit becomes unlocked. By cultivating our relationship with the outside world, we open up possibilities that allow us to feel grounded. However, often we take our time outdoors for granted.
Pamela Slaughter founded the Oregon-based non-profit and Meetup community PDX People of Colors Outdoors. She did so to bring ways to learn about and appreciate nature to BIPOC communities. Slaughter’s interest in nature began when she was a child growing up in Oregon. There, she was surrounded by beauty every day and would regularly embark on outdoor trips with her family.
After spending a summer in Chicago without access to nature when she was ten, Slaughter realized how much stress relief the outdoors provided. She vowed never to take her proximity to it for granted again. Slaughter also passed on the importance of the outdoors to her children, creating family experiences centered around nature. Now, through her non-profit, she’s built a virtual and IRL space that encourages Black, Indigenous, and people of color to gather and relish in all that nature provides.
Building our connection to nature
The outdoors may not feel like a natural home to all of us, but it provides us with a connection that can lift our spirits, aids in our emotional and mental well-being, and gives us a space in which movement can flourish. As with many facets of our wellness journey, we can build our relationship with nature, starting with small actions. It can be as simple as finding a pocket of nature within your local community and getting to know that spot intimately.
To rē-introduce ourselves to nature as we ease out of the winter season, Slaughter suggests exploring a new outdoor area once a week for a month. Then, after the experience, look inward and rē-flect on how you’re feeling. “I’m betting that after about a month, you will notice that your stress levels have gone down, and your sense of connection with your space has gone up,” Slaughter says.
Finding pockets of nature to ground yourself in doesn’t have to mean a park or a forest; it can be somewhere as simple as a public garden or your own backyard. Take your shoes off, feel the grass beneath your feet, and breathe. Write down three things you appreciate about the outdoors after each experience.
“Focus on nature and gratitude,” Slaughter adds. “We go outdoors with the intention of experiencing the abundance of beauty that we’re blessed to be surrounded by. We share with each other the gratitude we feel because we get to be there. We’re outdoors to connect our spirits with nature, increase our joy, and release feelings of stress.”
The holistic effects of nature
Spending time outdoors benefits our physical, mental, and spiritual health. It allows us to integrate more movement into our days, feel grounded in ourselves, and experience the multi-dimensional facets of Mother Earth.
“A person can walk into the woods feeling weighed down by their burdens but then get distracted by a birdsong and feel a shot of joy just from hearing it,” she explains. “They then get another shot of joy when they catch a sweet whiff of warm, ripe blackberries on a breeze or inhale a light fragrance from a patch of nearby flowers. They might even feel inspired to find and enjoy a berry or flowers. Before they know it, they use all their senses as they move along the trail, fully engaged in the experience.”
This experience, Slaughter says, is what can lift an individual’s spirit. Even if they are leaving with the same burdens they bore when they walked in, albeit now just a bit lighter. “The more people can repeat that experience, the better they will feel,” she says. “Pretty soon, the habit of spending time in nature becomes a healing lifestyle.”