I was raised in a religious culture where getting married young and starting a family was the most important value. As a result I was married at 21 and had my first child at 23. I was so far from ready for it. To say that I was thrown into adulthood too early is an understatement. Most people spend those years dating and getting to know themselves, but this wasn't the case for me. I never got to have that journey, and bottling up my emotions led to a lot of internal pain. The only time I ever felt truly OK and like I was really connecting with myself was when I was out in nature, riding my mountain bike.
My marriage lasted 10 years, and my two beautiful daughters came out of it, which is something for which I'll be forever grateful. But it was an extremely difficult decade, and if I didn't have the option to hop on my mountain bike and escape into nature, I'm not sure how I would have gotten through it. I would ride my bike out in the desert for six hours, or however long it took to calm down and feel free. Over time, I would become centered again. Looking back, I was undoubtedly a little bit obsessive, but the most important thing that came out of it was that I learned to use nature as a healing strategy.
Yes, nature has been extremely healing for me—and it can be for you, too. Whether you do yoga outside, meditate, ski, hike, bike, or run, all these activities can heal; here's why I believe that.
1. Nature defuses anger.
When we embrace the pain of a hard run, a tough hike, or any other form of exercise in nature, we begin to get back to our true place on this planet. We realize that we are not just a ball of pent-up anger in that moment, but that we are a vital piece of this beautiful blue sphere. We are loving beings at our core. With each rock and tree stump we hop over, each river we forge, and each summit we conquer, we chill out. It’s as if our bodies are telling us, Yes, this is where I belong.
2. Nature leads to perspective—but be careful.
Without a doubt, nature and movement are a beautiful combination for gaining perspective on our lives and solving our problems. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve simply spent a moment watching the chipmunks, squirrels, and rabbits play out in nature while I was out in the mountains and felt an instant softening inside as I remembered that life existed beyond me and my broken heart. The sound of the dirt crunching under my feet or the ripping of the treads of a mountain-bike tire all provide a meditative healing sound.
3. Nature restores hope.
Years ago, I dealt with quite a bit of career heartbreak. I lost a big consulting job that would drastically affect my income, and I was devastated. Human nature is to buckle down, get to your computer, and search for any possible way to solve the problem. But instead, I remember telling myself, “You need to force yourself to get out in nature right now—even if it's only for one hour. Nature holds the answers.”
I went out for a trail run, and the problem seemed to shrink. I felt strong again. Moving my body restored confidence in my talents, gifts, and abilities. There is something about nature that makes us feel so small, yet so loved, and we realize things are going to be OK. So the next time you're in the midst of a breakup, a lost job, problems with your kids, or any other kind of heartbreak, try getting out in nature for restoration and as a way to think through your problems.
You have nothing to lose, and only healing and newfound perspective to gain.
Inspired by Brock's story? Find out how this woman used nature to heal her anxiety.