So far as I know I don’t suffer from mental illness, but that is not to say my mental health is always good. Moreover, there are times when life throws things at you that do depress, in the everyday sense of being fed up with something, especially something you cannot change.
Outdoors Wellness With Bo Beolens
Having said that, my ‘wellness’ is intimately linked to how much I connect with nature.
I have a number of disabilities and medical conditions that can cause pain, fatigue and a general depression or despondency and the longer I stay indoors without getting into fresh air and the wild world, the more irritable and down I get. The thing is, that nature takes your mind off self and physical and mental strife.
For example, I suffer a hearing issue that can sometimes be accompanied by tinnitus, vertigo, nausea and vomiting. These ‘attacks’ last a few hours or several days and their frequency is unpredictable. I always know when an attack is imminent, but the drugs can only treat some of the symptoms.
Currently, I have been lucky and not had an attack for well over six months. However, a couple of years back the attacks were coming every week or ten days and were very debilitating, depressing and isolating. Ironically, when I most needed the calmness and escapism of contact with the wild, I was least able to connect, being bed-bound or at least unable to get out of the house.
During such times, it’s hard to see light at the end of illnesses tunnel. It doesn’t just affect me either, my mood will drag down my partner too and the profound deafness can be harder for her to cope with than it is for me. Added to this, deafness, perhaps because of it’s a common progression with age, is the stuff of humour not sympathy.
Besides this I have had a form of arthritis for all my adult life which in that half century has meant I am generally in pain. In fact, so ubiquitous is the pain that occasionally I ‘feel funny’ and it takes me a while to cotton on to why – it’s because I have a brief respite from the general aches and pains.
The weather plays a part too, most people think rheumatic pains are connected to damp or cold but in fact research shows they are mostly affected by changes in air-pressure. So long cold or wet spells are not as bad as the sudden changes of spring or autumn.
The arthritis also makes walking, particularly any distance, difficult. My best days, with a tail wind, downhill, and using a ‘walker’ I can get to the nearest bird hide or bench. On my worst days, I can’t walk to the office, and my office is next door to my bedroom!
Over time I’ve developed strategies to get my necessary fix of nature, whether it’s a drive to a place where I can sit among the trees or by calm water, or making do with a chair in the garden amongst the birds we bring to our feeders and the flowers we grow on our tiny, (mostly container) urban garden.
I’m sure I am not alone in internalising some times and places that the inward self can fall back on when the real thing is not available.
I’ve two. One is a place called ‘Hongis’ Track’ in New Zealand. More than forty years ago I walked a short distance along this track when visiting my parents. I sat among the moss-clad trees alone except for the buzzing of insects and the occasional call of bell birds. I watched a ‘rifleman’, a small bird that moves round and round a tree trunk looking for food. In my mind I go there when I need to find sanctuary from pain or everyday troubles. The other place is much closer to home at local nature reserve where I can sit on a bench in the sun surrounded by reed beds. In high summer, there are few visitors to disturb my peace and I can close my eyes and listen or lay back and watch the swifts flying in the clear blue sky… whether in reality or in my mind’s eye.
It’s not, of course, as good as the real thing, although it can be a saviour, calming the mind and mood.
The Real Thing
The real thing is a far better pain-killer and allows you to ‘log out’ and reset your spirit. I honestly believe that, regardless of where we are on the spectrum of well-being, close proximity to that part of the world over which we have no dominion is an absolute essential. Call it mindfulness, wellness or meditation, it’s an age-old practice because it is an essential need; as necessary to sustaining life as water, food or the air we breathe.
You can find out more about Beolens at Fatbirder.com
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