As Aspire Counseling has moved from Cherry Hill across town to the Seven Oaks building (behind the Grand Cru restaurant), I have wanted to make our new space a healing experience from the moment you walk in, so I’ve been researching what environments promote healing. One thing I’ve read over and over again is that bringing in elements of nature (pictures, plants, the sound of running water, etc.) promotes healing. One article from the University of Minnesota explains, “Being in nature, or even viewing scenes of nature, reduces anger, fear, and stress and increases pleasant feelings. Exposure to nature not only makes you feel better emotionally, it contributes to your physical wellbeing, reducing blood pressure, heart rate, muscle tension, and the production of stress hormones. It may even reduce mortality, according to scientists such as public health researchers Stamatakis and Mitchell. Research done in hospitals, offices, and schools has found that even a simple plant in a room can have a significant impact on stress and anxiety.”
So, how can you harness this power of nature in your own life to help you experience emotional healing? Here are three ideas:
- Bring elements of nature into your own day to day environment. You can do the same things in your own space (your house, bedroom, work space) that I’m doing in my office. Consider arranging your furniture so you can see out a window when your sitting at your desk. A small water fountain can sound and look peaceful. Maybe purchase a large picture (or better yet, blow up a picture you have taken yourself somewhere that you’ve visited) of something in nature and hang it where you’ll see every day. Grow an indoor plant. Admittedly I’m not the best at keeping indoor plants alive. Yet I purchased two today to put in the lobby of the office at our Columbia, MO counseling center. Why? I want it to be a healing experience. An NBC News article I read explains, “Studies have also proven that indoor plants improve concentration and productivity (by up to 15 percent!), reduce stress levels and boost your mood — making them perfect for not just your home but your work space, too.”
- Get out in nature regularly to reduce your overall vulnerability. This looks different for different people. Perhaps this means taking a vacation to go hiking in Colorado or sit on the beach in the Bahamas for a few days straight. If you do go on a nature rich vacation, take lots of pictures to refer back to later so you can take “mental vacations” on stressful days after you return home! But more often you’ll be incorporating nature in smaller ways. Some people find gardening to be very fulfilling and a great stress busting activity. Others like to go golfing. Maybe you like to sit outside and meditate or go for a walk in the woods. Pic nics can be a great way to get the family outside together!
- Go for a walk when you feel stressed. On a bad day, take your spouse or children for a walk on a local trail. I love to take my children for a walk on the MKT trail in Columbia, MO when we’re having a difficult day. Just getting outside and breathing the fresh air can immediately change your mood. Taking a walk has the added benefit of exercise when gets the “feel good” chemicals in your brain flowing and also helps you feel better. You can also consider scheduling meetings to be “walking meetings,” or asking a friend or family member to walk and talk when you know you’ll be talking about something that’s hard to say. If nothing else, when you’ve had a bad morning take a few minutes on your lunch break to just walk outside and smell some flowers nearby.
Looking for help?
Are you looking for help finding emotional healing and want to work with a therapist who values the whole person? At Aspire Counseling, we value the whole person and take a wholistic approach to mental health. We are located in Columbia, MO and have clients who come to us from throughout the Mid Missouri area. Please reach out today by e-mail or call us at 573-328-2288 to talk about how counseling might be able to help you on your journey to emotional freedom.
Now that you’ve read this article, the first time you come into our office, I encourage you to notice the subtle ways we’ve brought nature into our office to help promote healing. Even in our lobby area that doesn’t have any windows we want you to feel grounded and connected to nature.
Jessica Tappana, LCSW is the founder of Aspire Counseling, a Columbia, MO counseling center that specializes in treating trauma, grief, anxiety/fear and those who are going through a stressful period in their life. She believes in creating a welcoming therapy environment so people of all walks of life can find emotional healing, peace and joy. Jessica enjoys writing blog posts that give people hope and practice advice about how to improve their mental health. In her spare time, Jessica enjoys playing with her two young children, cheering at MU sporting events (go Tigers!) and traveling.