A Safe Place to Start

In the age of social media and the Internet, it is incredibly effortless to lose touch with reality and wallow in one’s own disheartening world. Mental health disorders have been a debilitating factor in countless lives, mine included. They haunt even the most vibrant and spirited of people, clouding them with bleak, gray senses and drowning them, convincing them to “enter any body of water” and “give [themselves] up to be swallowed.” They are what brings the deep gut feeling of dread and fear, the deceptive agony of bone splintering and crushing, and the tormenting headaches that ring in the ears and refuse to let the mind rest. The crippling sensation where you feel everything, yet absolutely nothing at all. 

I personally have also struggled in an endless battle with such, especially over the past year, the year spent in quarantine and isolation. I had found that spending time in natural environments helps clear my mind, escape from life, and cope with my stress during the pandemic. Over the course of quarantine, I strived to work taking walks into my daily schedule, which I found to be a highly beneficial pastime, and now motivate others to do the same. To stop and smell the blooming jasmines, to pick wild dandelions, and to observe the blue jay warbling from its locus on a towering hickory tree, its vocal calls carrying with the slight, summer breeze. Smother the mind’s broken record, and grow “eighty feet tall,” burdens lifted, shoulders light, and finally free for a marvelous moment. From taking note of the shades of blue, yellow, pink, and purple during a morning stroll, to simply pulling back the bedroom curtains to silently watch the setting honey sun, these associations build our connectivity with our natural surroundings and our understanding of the world around us. The interconnection gained “indicate[s] what a long Fierce peace can derive from this knowledge.” 

Nature Photograph by Aaron Reed
“Dragon’s Breath” Photo by Aaron Reed

Instead of simply mindlessly wandering, take time to actually notice and observe, to find what is hidden and see what lies within. These observations are what foster the imagination, nourish the soul, and open our eyes to an incredible world around us we were blind to before. They are what “conveys a sense of permanence that nurtures the heart” and “cripples one of the most insidious of human anxieties,” the sickening one that whispers down the ear, screaming, “you do not belong here, you are unnecessary.” 

Granted, making a mere change will not completely release one from the grasps of a mental health disorder, but every enormous accomplishment begins as a slight step. And what better place to start than building a relationship and appreciation with the natural world around us, leading to an effort to build a secure connection with ourselves.

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