Nature and humanity have been partners for a very long time. When there was a need for food, there was wildlife and farming. Where there was a need for shelter, there was wood and stone. And when there was a need for wellness, nature provided fresh air, cleansing water, medicinal plants, and enlightening beauty. Though time has seen many changes in our world, this relationship is still there for us to embrace. Nature Therapy is a rediscovered practice of intentionally partaking in nature's offerings to promote our wellness, and we hope this blog serves as a guide for ways to reconnect with the nature in Lake Norman. Let us show you how simple, easy, and freeing it is to "escape" into nature!
Catch Your Breath
Life often leaves us breathless - maybe from a hectic day or an unforgettable moment - and when the time comes that we feel overwhelmed, our first instinct is to stop and take a deep breath. This is not a coincidence; breathing restores our bodies with precious oxygen and then expels all that carbon dioxide we no longer need. It can reduce stress, restore energy and focus, and release tension. And the best part? We don’t usually need to think about it, but when we do, the results of that action are nearly immediate and noticeable!
You can choose any water-side or flowery environment to benefit from fresher air, but trees may be the best companions for taking this self-care time, since they breathe in carbon dioxide and ‘exhale’ oxygen (almost like it was meant to be!) and also serve as natural filters for air pollution. You can find a number of them in our parks from the smaller, waterfront Jetton Park to the more expansive Latta Nature Center and Preserve.
Below we have some guidance on ways to “catch your breath” while outdoors!
Step 1 ~ Awareness
This may be the easiest thing you ever do! You don’t need to change anything, just focus on your breath - the air flowing into your lungs and back out. Recognize the rhythm, make note of all the scents that you can pick up on, like woodsy trees or a crisp breeze off the water. Remember: this moment is for you and your well-being. It is vital as, well, breathing!
Step 2 ~ Intention
Now that you’ve become aware of your passive breath, it’s time to get active and work on deeper breathing. First, find a comfortable, safe position (you can stay standing, but it's better if you're sitting or laying down, and it can be helpful to place your hands on your stomach). Once you’re ready, slowly draw a deep breath in, feeling the air filling you up and expanding your diaphragm. Then slowly exhale. That’s it! Repeat this process for as long as you like. Find a new rhythm that works for you!
Step 3 ~ Gratitude
After you’ve finished your deep breathing, let your hands fall away and take stock of how you feel (hopefully, more relaxed). Appreciate the air, the trees, and the moment. Don’t forget to thank yourself too, for doing such an amazing, vital activity without even thinking about it, and for taking the time – even if it’s just a few moments – to practice this therapy (while helping the trees)!
Latta Nature Preserve
Have a Seat
Have a bit longer to spare? Rest for a bit. Find a park bench or settle on a patch of grass in an area like Robbins Park. Realize that the world may seem like it is constantly in motion, it's foundation is quite steady! Give yourself a chance to find stillness; to feel the strength of the Earth beneath you. And remember you’re strong too! Meditating is a great way to reconnect with your inner strength, and has the added benefit of lowering blood pressure and increasing clarity of thought.
Not sure how to do it? Here’s a simple method you could try while “settled in” in nature!
Step 1 ~ Center
Find a comfortable and safe seated position with your hands relaxed at your sides, in your lap, or on your knees. Close your eyes. Like the breathing exercise, either bring awareness to your breath, or if you have some extra time and it helps, engage in deeper breathing. If you get distracted by a stray thought, a noise – life, really - that’s perfectly okay. Pause and reset. This is a no-judgment, self-care time!
Step 2 ~ Focus
Focus on the rhythm of your breath, then on how you feel. Do a body scan, concentrating on your feet first, on how they feel and what they’re feeling (such as the sensation of the solid ground beneath them). Then work your way up through various parts of your body, like the hands, back, neck, and jaw. Notice if there’s tension there and try to release it. When you’re ready, take a moment for mindfulness, focusing only on being present in the moment, free of thoughts. It’s a moment literally just for you – your moment. Own it, enjoy it! Take a deep breath in, exhale, and then open your eyes. Feeling better? We hope so!
Tip: Have headphones? Try a guided meditation or music to help you maintain focus.
Find Your Rhythm
But know that even in peaceful moment, life moves around you. The rustle of the leaves in the trees, the brush of the waves against the shore. A bird song on one side, the skittering of a squirrel on the other. Nature provides an entire playlist for us to enjoy – free of charge! Some of you may be familiar with the concept of 'cymatics', in which sound influences the state of matter (ever have music set or change your mood?), or the trendier Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response (ASMR), in which certain sounds (or combinations of sounds) bring us a pleasant experience (like the sound of coffee filling up your cup in the morning). Do you find the steady splash of a paddle in the water soothing? The take-off of a bird engaging and distracting from your worries on the ‘outside’? The world is both vast and wonderful…all you have to do is listen to it!
Pick A Spot
Spot 1 ~ Land
Find a good spot in a place like Roosevelt Wilson Park, where there are bushes, trees, and plenty of land. How many sounds can you identify?
Ramsey Creek Park
Spot 2 ~ Water
Pick a favorite fishing spot or step onto the lakeside shore, like at Ramsey Creek Park. What sounds does the water make? What sounds do you and the animals make while using the water?
Spot 3 ~ Sky
Venture out and turn your head this way and that! Do you hear any birds? Maybe, if you listen closely, you can hear the sound of a butterfly gliding past on the wind (or landing on a flower)!
Fisher Farm Park
Latta Nature Preserve
Move with the Beat
Feeling motivated by the sounds? Restless and not ready to settle down for breathing and meditation? Then tap into your nature – and natural inclinations – and get out there and move! Physical activity has a number of health benefits, and, when it comes to nature therapy, Lake Norman possesses many different venues in order for your physical activity to get you breathing with intention, finding balance, and making some noise of your own!
What are some recommended ways to get moving? Take a look below!
Forms of Exercise
Idea 1 ~ Yoga
Whether a simple stretch under the sun in a spot like Jetton Park, or as part of a SUP class, do more than go through the motions!
Idea 2 ~ Hiking and Biking
Lake Norman is home to multiple trails and greenways, such as the South Prong Rocky River Greenway and Fisher Farm Park, so go out and enjoy the wind and the views!
Idea 3 ~ Canoeing and Kayaking
Find your flow, in the flow, by taking a boat out on the water. Feel the weight of the world leave you as you launch from Davidson Nature Preserve or Latta Nature Center and Preserve in a canoe or kayak!
If you're interested in other forms of Nature Therapy, check out our forest therapy blog post, and read our very own forest therapy experiences! If you’d like to learn more about our trails, check out our Guide to Hiking and Biking blog.
As you can see, Lake Norman provides an abundance of opportunities to try out nature therapy. It has great health benefits and we’d love to see you take it all in by tagging us in your nature retreats on social media @VisitLakeNorman!
*Disclaimer: The content of this blog provides general information and discussions about a health-related subject and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. The information and other content provided in this blog, or in any linked materials, are not intended and should not be construed as medical advice, nor is the information a substitute for professional medical expertise or treatment. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something that have read on this blog or in any linked materials. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition, concern, or treatment.