This is a guest column by wellness facilitator and talented chef Natalie Watters
In recognition of Mental Health Awareness month, Nouera partnered with wellness practitioner and chef Natalie Watters to provide you with some easy tips to explore Eco Therapy around your home and backyard:
Mental Health is our well-being in relation to how we think, feel and behave as emotional, social and psychological living souls. How we perceive our inner world through our interactions and observations of the outer world can shift our mental stability. For instance, when we fall victim to arrogance or are seduced by self-importance we are caught up in the mere appearance of things. This state of delusion or illusion in Sanskrit is Samsara, and can contribute to the chaos and clutter in the mind that may contribute to anxiety, stress, depression, panic or phobias. These mental disorders can arise when we choose to allow suffering, anguish, alienation or discontent to surface. When we blindly follow desire or are imprisoned by want or outcome we enter a state of dis-ease or Dukkha, the term in Pali – the ancient language used for sacred Buddhist texts and is the first of the Four Noble Truths in Buddhist teachings recognizing that we are innately entangled with suffering. Yet, while physical pain is inevitable, mental suffering can be avoided. So, we must choose a path of acknowledgment, awareness, and healing constantly and continuously throughout life in order to be free from mental turmoil.
I suffer and at times feel incapable of satisfying the desires I am attached to. When confronted with worry, self-doubt, resentment or judgement, I pause. Then I remind myself that detachment from my thoughts is liberating and the path to mental freedom. (This moment of pause is Pratyahara in Sanskrit and is the fifth of the Eight Limbed Yogic Path. Here we withdraw from the external stimuli of the outer world, then observe ourselves by detaching from our senses and turn our attention inward). After a brief pause in stillness and observation I use mindfulness techniques of breath, body movement, and meditation to guide myself into an active practice that will habituate over time. With practice, I can learn to be more gentle and kind to myself by redirecting my mental awareness and actively managing my mood. With paying attention to what really matters through mindfulness practices I allow space for a compassionate and non-judgmental self-observation and awareness moment to moment of my interactions in the multiverse. I allow the Tao or the way of virtuous and simple living to create moments to pause, then breath and bath in nature.
One method I welcome daily and throughout my day no matter where I am, at home or traveling, is Nature-Therapy or Eco-Therapy. The Japanese have a term called Shinrin-Yoku or Forest Bathing, that encourages being outdoors and in the wilderness to be immersed in nature in order to prevent or aid in the healing of mental and emotional issues. I am blessed to have a forest just a five minute walk from my home, but nature is not necessarily something I must go seek, but can also welcome elements into my daily existence. For instance, even in downtown areas shaded by skyscrapers, I can pause, look up at the sky, take a few breaths and be blessed with clarity in my head. Daily moments like this and some other examples that guide me may help us as a society overcome nature deficit disorder and the mental dis-ease we experience as a modern urban tribe
Try these mental health tips and watch them on Noura’s Instagram
Observing nature and the elements:
- watching a bee gather pollen on lavender bushes
- raindrops in the morning light on nasturtium leaves
- spotting a praying mantis among the green bean vines in the vegetable bed
Cultivating a space where I can surround myself with nature and appreciate its beauty
- the movement created by the shadows of my house plants on the curtains
- the play of shadow and light while interacting with a cup of saffron-rose tea
Touching greenery, hugging trees, nuzzling with a favorite house plant, petting herbs and smelling, or picking things up from the forest floor.
- Hand stroking a cedar tree
- Caressing a Eucalyptus flower
Making Sounds in repetition and variety using my voice or simple percussion to reflect the beauty and harmony of nature
- Shaking the dust of gathered herbs in a basket and a song sung to the ritual process of work
Mindful eating and imagination applied to experiencing flavors found while foraging or in my garden.
- The creation and taste of a small spring strawberry inside a nasturtium flower.
Drinking water from natural sources
- taking sips of water from Mt Tam spring in gratitude
Feeling the earth, grass, sand, rocks or water under my barefoot
- gold toes splashing in the creek by my house to a simple song
Welcoming touches of nature when I am not in the forest. When I fly or find myself too immersed in a city I bring essential oils and listen to sounds of nature to keep me feeling grounded and connected to wild and open spaces.
- Rubbing Redwood extract oil on my hands and taking a deep inhale while listening to a recording of a river, and exhaling a kiss.
And of course our favorite mental health tip of all, exercise being present with Nouera’s mini prerolls, Smallz.
Natalie Mei Watters is a plant-based chef and yoga instructor who credits her approach to cooking and wellness to her Northern California upbringing and her family’s Chinese traditions. Connecting breath with body movement in alignment with mindful culinary practices are her passions – there is nothing more potent than wisely choosing how we use our bodies. Learn more about Natalie on the Asian Americans for Cannabis Education Website.