If you’re recently separated or divorced, you’re quite possibly dealing with a bruised ego and a broken heart. Looking inward for insight and understanding is extremely important. Processing emotions and feeling supported are also essential to the recovery process.
Therapy can be tremendously helpful, of course, but the feeling of disconnection that typically follows divorce can be difficult to move beyond. You may have been severed from what you knew to be safe, leaving you feeling untethered from the world.
The shattered and broken feeling you may carry after separation or divorce may drive you toward a need to become “whole” again, but it might seem as if nothing anyone can say would restore the sense of belonging and connection you’ve lost. When you’re adrift like this, seeking therapy can help. However, there is an often-overlooked and powerful resource you can also turn to: the earth.
In an industrialized society, it’s easy to forget the powerful healing that nature can offer. It has become a passing part of our landscape. And many of us live in concrete jungles where the experience of nature is not easily accessed.
Nature, though, can be held in mind as a metaphor for many things, including renewal, grounding, sustainability, nurturance, and transformation. It’s a reminder that growth can happen in the darkest of places and within almost any context. You realize that you don’t need perfect circumstances to thrive, and that it’s very possible to continue evolving even when all of the elements you desire aren’t there.
There is an astounding amount of research that supports the healing benefits of nature for both body and mind. In green spaces, for example, people’s heart rates decrease, their muscles relax, and they become calmer. You can probably attest to this by noticing how you feel when you walk on a busy city street compared to your experience of walking in a park.
Being in nature can have a profoundly healing effect after separation or divorce because of the natural reconnection it offers with the self and the greater universe. Divorce or separation can be alienating, and nature has a way of helping a person feel less alone.
Working with nature can be simple or elaborate, depending on your available time and access to its healing powers.
Here are five simple ways to coexist with nature as a form of healing:
1. Mindfully Walk
The key word here is “mindfully” because it’s easy to walk in nature and be in your head the whole time. Use your walk as a time to pay attention to your surroundings. Set an intention to find three aspects of nature on the ground or practice a bit of bird watching. You may notice your stress levels go down, and it will train your mind to resist being pulled into dark places.
2. Hug a Tree
I know this sounds cliché, but don’t forget that trees are living things. Wrapping your arms around the trunk of a tree may serve to calm your nervous system. It feels like a loving act. At a time when you may feel rejected and alone, hugging the trunk of a tree may center you and connect you back to your heart. Perhaps the tree will benefit, too; as human beings, we carry our own healing energy.
3. Look for Metaphors
Notice aspects of nature that you can use as metaphors for what you’re feeling. Whether it’s the roots of a tree, a prickly shrub, or the crashing waves of the ocean, make a connection to what it represents for you. Nature offers a deeper understanding of what you’re feeling via imagery. Just that alone, seeing thoughts and experiencing feelings differently, may help you to step back and see things more objectively.
4. Work with Soil
Research shows that soil on your hands reduces stress and calms your nervous system. Even if you’re not a gardener, just digging around and enjoying the planting process can be transformative. You can choose one small pot or a garden plot; size and scope don’t matter here. This isn’t about skill. It’s about making a connection with the earth and, ultimately, reconnecting with yourself.
5. Talk to the Plants
This may sound strange, but nature is a really good listener! Sharing your feelings with a living part of nature may be healing for many reasons. For one, it’s completely safe; you don’t have to fear being judged. You can say whatever you want and trust that it won’t be repeated or analyzed.
When you practice any of these healing nature therapies, I suggest that you ask permission to engage. This sets the tone for appreciation of what you’ll be taking from nature for your healing purposes. Express gratitude to the earth for providing such a powerful opportunity during this challenging time in your life.
- Buzell, Linda, & Chalquist, Craig. (2009). Ecotherapy: Healing with nature in mind. Berkeley, CA: Counterpoint Press.
- Glausiusz, Josie. (2007, June 14). Is dirt the new Prozac? Discover Magazine. Retrieved from http://com/2007/jul/raw-data-is-dirt-the-new-prozac
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