Halfway through summer, I was already starting to stress about going back to school. I'm a K-5 P.E. teacher (which I actually call Health & Fitness), and was looking at two weeks of summer camp, then two weeks of teacher prep. So basically, I felt like my summer was already over, and it was only July. As a proactive measure, and to keep myself accountable to it, I started a 28 day challenge of sorts to get myself out in nature for some niksen time, and posted my progress to Instagram & Facebook.
It started off fairly easy, as doing nothing in nature comes pretty naturally to me at this point, but the Texas heat made it much harder. I started going out after 8pm, when it was cooler, but there were days where I was too tired at this point and needed to start dinner and get my son ready for bed. So I started by just sitting on my porch or in my hammock for a little while. Each time I did it, I was grateful for the calmness that it brought me before the hectic evening routines.
It wasn't as easy as I thought though, because of the swarm of thoughts in my head. It felt like a meditation practice at times, where I would notice my thoughts and come back to my surroundings. Sometimes this felt like too much mental effort, which is NOT Niksen, but if I stayed with it for more than 10 minutes, it started to subside. By 15 minutes, I was finally starting to relax. Thoughts still came of course, but I was able to brush them aside more easily and tune into nature. Sometimes there would be a really cool thought that I would think "ooh! I should come back to that later." That's my favorite thing about Niksen: the inspiration and creativity it brings me. Not in a "one more thing on my to-do list" kind of way, but a "I'm grateful to feel inspired" kind of way.
I usually niks on my couch with a cup of tea, looking out the windows. This is especially nice for avoiding the Texas heat, but I realized it's actually WAY easier to niks outside because there are so many pleasant things to tune into. Inside, I get distracted by the dirty windows I should clean, or the next chore that needs to be done. Outside, there is a plethora of bird behavior to watch, or movements to watch (wind is my favorite), or colors to notice. As a Montessori trained teacher, I approach life through my senses, and follow where they lead me.
These sensory experiences in nature are a much more effective distraction from my thoughts. "
Looking back, these four weeks were more challenging than I thought. Like exercising, or any other healthy habit we try to incorporate more of in our lives, there were many days that I didn't want to do it. There were days were I gave myself the grace to modify and do less, and days where I looked forward to it. Ultimately, tapping into nature and slowing down created small sparks of inspiration in my brain that helped build gratitude, patience, perspective, and ease, while quieting those pesky negative thoughts. It really has been the best (& cheapest!) support for my mental health, and acts as both therapy and self-care.