8 Roles Nature Can Play To Heal Your Anxiety


The thing I wish for most when in the cusps of anxiety is to escape.

I wish to be transported to a place of serene silence, one that is empty of people and full of nothingness, and one where I am alone and content. It’s getting to that place that is the tricky part. Anxiety makes you feel wary of everything, so the simple act of stepping even one foot outside your front door and going someplace new, can at times feel overwhelmingly scary.

For me, I worry about who I will meet between my doorway and the journey to my destination point. I become fearful of strangers. I feel as though everyone is watching my every move, I feel as though I am being judged by people I’ve never met. I feel as though I am enlarged to the world and they can see the beads of sweat that mount on my forehead as I move clumsily, one foot in front of the other. The times I have run back inside my home to the warming embrace of comfort is endless. But the thing I wish I’d told myself sooner was keep going. Keep on placing one foot in front of the other. Nature is waiting. Nature is the answer.

For so long, I was told to go for walks, no matter how long or short. My doctor told me that the simple act of stepping outside the confines of the four walls I felt trapped within would do wonders for my mood. But at the time I was battling both depression and anxiety, so on the days when my depression was bad, I could barely lift my head from the pillow. On the days when my anxiety took over I felt like a failure and that nothing, especially going outside into the real world, would make me feel any better. I felt stuck, and it was a huge obstacle to overcome to even pull on my shoes and leave a place that I’d become hostage to. So much so I became a recluse for around a year, and I never stepped foot outside of my own door.

But the day that I did I will remember for the rest of my life. It felt like everything was amplified; the sound of my footsteps, one in front of the other, as I walked along the road. The sound of the traffic that passed me felt like a song I’d long forgotten. The people I passed, they didn’t stare at me in the judgement I’d been anticipating. Some even offered up a smile, others were too deep in their own thoughts to pay me any kind of attention. The fresh air engulfed me and it was a wonder how I didn’t get drunk on all of the air I tried to breathe into my lungs.

I was alive, and I was walking and it was the best medicine for my soul.

I know how hard it can be to step outside that first time. But try to do it, even if you don’t make it far, you’ve made the first steps. And nature is such a healing place to be, those people who told me for years that the fresh air and surrounding scenery would take me out of my anxiety if only for a short while, they were right. Spending time in nature feels a little like coming home; it’s always ready to welcome you with open arms.


Don’t let the weather put you off. In fact, when it’s wet and cold it’s my favorite time to go outside. I find something comforting about the harsh elements; I love cold winds and getting rosy cheeks. It makes you feel alive, and after feeling numb for so long, it’s a wonderful sensation. Walking through a woodland area when it’s raining is really therapeutic. I even enjoy walking along the beach in the rain. So bundle up and embrace the weather whatever it may be.


We spend so much time hurrying about in our day to day lives that we don’t often take a moment to hit pause and just live in the moment. Nature allows you to do this. Spend your time in nature without being distracted. Take a moment to truly look around you and see the world in which you live. Touch a tree, or pick up a handful of crisp autumn leaves and appreciate their beauty.


Technology, while a great invention, is also one of the worst. We now live in a world that is almost entirely online that we often forget to appreciate the life that is happening around us. Take the time to connect with nature without the presence of technology. Fight the urge to take photographs; simply leave your phone at home, and be fully present in the moment without any distractions. You’ll notice sounds that you would have completely missed otherwise.


When you consciously choose to be aware of the planet you start to have a greater appreciation for nature, and nature itself rewards both your mind and body. However small the action, start to become aware of the waste you create that may have some kind of negative impact on the Earth. Small changes like ditching plastic, and recycling your rubbish will have a triple-down effect.


If you don’t live near a park or a beach then why not try to create your own therapeutic environment? Growing plants, or even just herbs, is a rewarding task and one that will give you something in return for the time invested. Plus you’ll grow to enjoy seeing life bloom before your eyes. Plants freshen a room with oxygen and a pop of color, so why not place one in your room? Jasmine smells delicious, while aloe vera is also healing; both help to promote a good nights sleep. This itself will lead to a less anxious mind.


“Everything you’ve ever wanted is one step out of your comfort zone.”

I love this quote because it’s true. All too often we become consumed in the safety net of our comfort zone and we forget to push ourselves. Distinguish the fear that’s holding you back and work towards overcoming it. For me, the simple act of going somewhere new and unknown was, at one time, unthinkable. I started to go places with my mum, who has and always will make me feel safe, and this helped me to make those baby steps. Gradually I started to venture out more and more, and now I would happily explore somewhere new and exciting, and I fully embrace the freedom in which I feel.


Whether you’re going for a run or just going for a walk, try and make nature a part of your daily routine. Exercise is great for the body and mind, and so is time spent in nature, so why not combine the two? If you’re looking to do a little meditation, why not surround yourself in nature? It doesn’t have to be in a field, or even somewhere new (although it can be) but in your very own garden. Try to take yourself out of a stale environment, like your home, and push yourself to open up to the world of nature.


As a child I spent the majority of my time in the garden, inhaling fresh air and playing with the dirt. I took those moments for granted then, but as I grow older, I have a bigger appreciation for nature. We simply would cease to exist without food to eat or air to breathe. Nature is part of a bigger picture, and when you start to feel gratitude for the existence of mother nature, you realize how powerful she is.

Just remember to keep going. One foot in front of the other. You can do it.


Lora O'Brien

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