Stop the Storm: 5 Step Quick Nature Break

It’s been a whirlwind of a week traveling half way around the world, massive jet lag, Florida freezes, teaching 3 great workshops and 2 more  this upcoming week, sending my partner Sean off to paint a mural in a snowstorm in Boston, and the general chaos of getting reorganized after basically being out of town for the past 8 weeks and heading back out for 4 more in a week. But, like any hurricane, the eye stays calm and connecting with nature is a great way to keep a seed of peace when life gets crazy.

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One day you’re on the north shore of Oahu in Hawaii and the next 2 you’re in a transit time warp of airports! For those of you literally stuck inside, like behind airport security, these nature pics are for you! Use them for the exercises below if you can’t get outside! Pictures are better than nothing!

When we make just a little time each day to go outside we give ourself the gift of sensory connection. Even if we don’t have time for sensory observation, journaling, actual garden work, or anything more than a little walk around the yard or block, when we consciously make a break in life’s figurative storms for reflection, we become more resilient to the waves life sends us. We have the foundational strength to surf them rather than get tossed.

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Frozen nature is important too. I know that it tough to remember when you’ve been buried under feet of snow for weeks!

This goes for your children and students too. In many schools, the frantic spring standardized testing season is rapidly approaching and the pressure cooker is starting to whistle on the both teachers’ and children’s pots. Times of high stress, when it seems like there isn’t a second to spare from working, are when taking nature breaks are even more important.

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Indoor plants can help! These orchids are bringing nature break benefits inside.

That regular time spent in nature relaxes our bodies and brains isn’t new info, especially not here on the Wings, Worms, and Wonder blog, but when the whirlwind hits we must schedule the break time in, and actually take the break! Even if we don’t want to, even if we can just finish one more thing, even if the weather isn’t warm and sunny. I beg you (and remind myself) to STOP!!!!

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Winter beach. I don’t like it when it’s cold winter windy at the beach, but I make myself go down there and I am always happy I did.

And do these 5 things:

1. Go outside.

2. Breathe slowly deeply 3 times, close your eyes if you like while you do this, and then remember to keep breathing deeply while you are outside. Deep breathing reduces stress and has a host of other benefits.

3. Look closely at some natural item(s) and make a mental note of 3 specific details. If you are in an urban environment this can be a potted plant. This concentration shifts your focus to something other than what you were working on indoors.

4. Stand still in the sun for a minute and feel it on your exposed skin. Notice how it feels as your body absorbs the warmth and vitamin D. More vitamin D intake improves cognitive function. Even if it isn’t bright and full sunny, if it’s daytime, you are still getting the sun’s benefits so get out of the shadows!

5. Take 3 more deep slow breaths, and with each inhale say an intention, like relax, in your mind and with each exhale let worries from the mind and tensions from the body release. Then, return to what you were working on with a renewed sense of being! And remember to keep breathing inside too!

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Look at all the details on this one leaf! Color fades, textures, shadows, and vein lines.

This break can take less than 5 minutes (or more if you can make the time) and can give you an abundance of life quality for the rest of the day. Do this with your students too. Make breaks for nature so your body and mind won’t break! We need it, we deserve it, and nature is there offering the bounty to us everyday!

Do you have a nature break routine?

Share it in the comments so we can try it too!

Seeds to Sprout:

Did you know natural daylight improves performance in school? No shocker there, but learn more here and open those window shades in the classroom! (I support this study completely! In high school, I had such a hard time time concentrating and testing in math class under fluorescent lighting in a classroom with no windows, that my math tutor got me permission to take tests in another classroom with the fluorescent lights off sitting by a window and without any other change in study habits, I went from Ds and Fs to Cs! I am living proof!!! If only I had this research back then to prove to the teacher I wasn’t crazy!)

See a NWF blog article summarizing their report on how outdoor time improving academic performance here.

“One 2005 study by the California Department of Education found that students in outdoor science programs improved their science testing scores by 27 percent.” Read the rest of this speech by Richard Louv here.

Olfactory fun: try some aromatherapy in the room when administering tests! Checkout this article on peppermint and its ability to improve memory.

Learn more about the benefits of Vitamin D here and then get outside in the sunshine!!

Learn more about the benefits of deep breathing for stress reduction here.

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Swirly ginger plant stalks make my head spin, in a good way!

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