Ever since I first learned to put one foot in front of the other, I’ve always loved walking. There’s something so very soothing about the pace and rhythmic nature of it, (and the fact it remains one of the few pleasures in life which is absolutely free.)
I count myself fortunate in that I live in a rural area, and rarely have the need to get behind the wheel of a car. However, even when I lived in a large industrial town in the Northwest of England, I always preferred to walk. If that wasn’t an option, I’d take the bus or train, as it offered a rare moment in the day when time stood still, and there was nothing else to do but look out of the window and think.*
This week I was introduced to a thought provoking video about something called “The Overview Effect.” It was first described by astronauts who had the unique opportunity to do this very same thing, the only difference being, they were looking out of the window of a space rocket.
As Edgar Mitchell, the Apollo astronomer describes it:
“My job was to be responsible for the lunar module. On the way home, most of my responsibilities had been completed, so I had more time to look out of the window than the others. Every two minutes a picture of the Earth, the Moon, the Sun and a 360 degree panorama of the Heavens appeared in the window.”
Other astronauts have talked about “Earth-gazing.” Their experiences were so profound, that research has been done on how, since returning to Earth, their outlook on everyday life has been changed forever. The overview effect causes such a shift in consciousness, it’s now defined as “a state of awe with self-transcendent qualities, precipitated by a particularly striking visual stimulus."
Granted, looking out of a bus window isn’t quite on the same scale, but we’ve all experienced moments in our lives when an event or situation has caused us to look at things from a different angle.
One of the very best ways to get into this mindset here on Earth (in my opinion,) is to go out walking.
Standing at the top of a hill and looking across the horizon, or gazing down at tiny insects from our giants’ perspective, shifts the emphasis away from our small, internal world, and is a really good way to think about the bigger picture.
Although many studies have been done about how being in nature has a beneficial impact on our mental health, I really think it comes down to something as simple as the overview effect. The wonder of it all, and the sheer beauty and awesome-ness of the natural world, takes us out of our small mindset and helps us to see our problems in a whole new light. It’s quite hard to have a panic attack while experiencing the magic of an ancient Celtic forest, or to be wracked with anxiety while listening to the wind, or the gentle sound of water flowing down a babbling brook.
Why do you think being outside in nature has such a striking effect on our mental wellbeing? Do you have a favourite place to experience the overview effect? Please do get in touch and share your thoughts in the comments thread below.
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*I find it really strange that idling as a pastime is generally frowned upon by society. I’d like to advocate for a favourite hobby I like to call “bench yoga,” the basic premise of which involves sitting down for five minutes on a park (or street) bench and simply watching the world go by. If you ask me, outdoor benches were invented for exactly this sort of thing. If this kind of meditation appeals to you, I highly recommend reading the fabulously liberating work of bon viveur Tom Hodgkinson - founder of The Idler Academy.
If you don’t have the luxury of being able to take five minutes outside, I invite you to experience the soothing sound of nature with this free audio-soundscape tool which recreates the sound of wind and rain on the Irish coast.
Walk With Me
Tomorrow (Friday 28th October,) I’m hosting a gentle walk through the woodland and around the coast of Mawgan Porth. Weather permitting we’ll gather at Sage (opposite Disco-Beads, on the mini golf course) at noon, and take a short stroll, ending with a soothing sound meditation and a steaming cup of fragrant herbal tea. The event is offered on a “Pay What You Can” basis (free if you’re not in a financial position to contribute.) Any donations will be put towards the cost of refreshments. Please do come along if you’re in the area. Everyone is welcome.
Are you a member of a gardening group, or a class of herbal students? From now until Christmas I’m offering 30% off subscriptions for 4 or more people! Gain access to a back catalogue of detailed medicine making tutorials (including my DIY Flower Essences Course,) and all the herbal archives by taking advantage of this time limited offer.
Online “Herbal Solutions for Anxiety” Workshop
For those of you who live farther afield, an online workshop on the important topic of herbs for anxiety will take place on Monday 1st November and is hosted in partnership with The Herbal Alliance.
In this talk I’ll discuss how herbalists use different approaches to treat the nervous system holistically, along with information about different categories of herbs that may be helpful, and adjunct therapies to help with mild forms of anxiety and panic attacks.
Tickets are £8.50 and can be purchased here. Please do pass this information on to anyone you think may benefit.
Building Resilience With Plant Medicine: A Four Part Workshop
Beginning next month, I’ll be hosting an in depth, 4-part workshop which will take place at Newquay Community Orchard. The workshop is focused around how to incorporate herbs into your everyday life, with an emphasis on helping you navigate a way out of anxiety, and supporting you through times of stress.
All four sessions are designed to help you better understand the nature and root cause of your anxiety, using the concept of herbal energetics to select remedies that are suited to your own individual constitution.
This is the key difference between knowing which remedies are actually going to work, rather than taking the “take it and see” approach that so much over the counter, quick fix advice is based on.
How to create personalised anxiety tea blends and decoctions for your individual situation (and when to take them)
How to make your own flower essences from wildcrafted plants, and blend them for emotional balance
How to know the difference between high quality essential oils and hydrosols, and their use in foot, hand and steam baths
Blending tinctures, understanding dosage, and home made preparations versus off the shelf products
Combining all of the above with nature therapy (this session includes a herb walk) to create an individualised, successful prescription
The course will include practical hands on medicine making sessions, and is accompanied with detailed resources for home study. Refreshments are also included in the price.
Tickets are limited to just 5 people.
Please note that as this is a community based project, these tickets are highly discounted. In total the course covers 8 hours of material and aims to provide you with comprehensive tools to manage your anxiety. These are lifelong skills that are helpful for both yourself and your family.
Tickets are on a first come first served basis and can be purchased here:
I hope you’ve found something to inspire you today. Wherever you are, do try to take five minutes to step outside and connect with nature.
With gratitude and blessings,
Just returned from a lovely stroll on the country road where I live. A walk always brightens my day!