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ART: The blessings of nature

Aldina Braganza

 

Have you ever experienced days when you feel as though someone has held a straw to your head and sucked every ounce of your energy. All you want to do after that is – nothing!

Well we all have been there. It could be work related like an important deadline you are supposed to meet or on the personal front – a difficult relationship, parental woes, or an upcoming exam. A zillion things can get you there. Sometimes the problems are not even your own. If you are someone like me then other people’s problems could be the reason why you are feeling that way. Just about anything can zap you off completely and you feel you need to recharge. Listen to your body when this happens. It’s trying to tell you something. We undermine the intelligence of our body that has systematically evolved to survive.

If you are an intuitive person, who can silence the noise of clutter in your thoughts, then you will hear your body speak to you. The mistake we do is that we do not pick up the signs. We continue to go on with our normal routine hoping that this dead feeling will pass away. The truth is that it adds on. And the signs get louder and if we still fail to listen, it will come to bite us as a full blown meltdown.

This one trick will help you no matter which stage of your problem you are at. You may not solve the problem but it will help you cope with it gracefully. If nothing else this therapy will help you recharge your batteries.

It’s a therapy that is fast gaining popularity. The beauty is everybody has access to it. It is a therapy that is organic and does not require a lot of background know how. You might have even practiced it without realising you did.

It is called ART: Attention Restoration Therapy. ART bases its foundations on the crux that humans are natural beings and not separate from nature. I am not being too philosophical when I say ‘we are our environment and the environment is us’. Our greatest healer is nature.

Restoration is a subtopic within the field of environmental psychology. It studies specifically the interactions and synergy between individuals and their surroundings. ART specifically draws attention to the role environment plays in restoring our mental energy.

ART is gaining popularity in the science of psychology especially given that now we end up spending most of our time indoors, behind desk, computers and mobile phones, rather than the outdoors amidst nature.

The concern is grave today especially in cosmopolitan areas. Environmental psychologists have listed steps on how to recharge your batteries in nature.

Scientists Stephen and Rachel Kaplan have listed attention states and the restoration process. Without being too technical, attention restoration (another word for recharging mental fatigue) requires a four stage work out.

The idea is to step away from that which is weighing you down. A physical separation. This distance allows you to disengage and clear your head. You are breaking away from the energy that you were earlier using to contain your concentration.

The second stage of restoration involves, soft fascination. You divert your mental energy into something new, something less taxing. Become curious about things like a butterfly’s wings, the pattern on its back, the shades of green in a field, the sound of water flowing or crashing waves, etc, anything that holds your fascination in a non-challenging way. This gives your internal mental state a chance to relax and the restoration process begins. When your environment provides you with a space to have low internal noise, it gets a chance to heal.

Once you become curious in a non-challenging manner, your mind relaxes. A restored mind can begin to see things from a different perspective. You can go back to whatever is challenging you, stronger and with a clear head. All you need is conscious efforts.

Thus, when your body tells you that you are feeling fatigued, you need to find yourself a space in nature to go to. Undoubtedly for me it’s the beach. But the mountains and rivers have a special calming effect as well. If I cannot travel too far then I just choose my garden space or watch the night sky. Living in a beautiful place like Goa, we are spoilt with natural beauty.

I have a simple rule that I have invented for myself. I make it a point to either sight the sun rise or sun set, and more often than not I have been able to keep to my promise.

All you need to do is disengage from your rather hectic schedule and move to place where you can spend a few moments looking at the beauty around you. Marvel at nature, and see it work its magic with your mental well-being.

 

 

(Writer is a clinical psychologist, psychotherapist and the HOD of psychology at Carmel College for Women)

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