The Rhythm of Life: Nature and Spirituality as an Antidote to Anxiety
Updated: Mar 6, 2019
When we struggle with anxiety or have experienced trauma, we can feel unpredictably unsafe, both out in the world and in our thoughts and feelings. When anxious thoughts and uncomfortable feelings intrude upon us or when someone has hurt us deeply, we can begin to think that the world around us doesn't make sense, that we don't fit in, or that something is wrong with us.
These kinds of thoughts and beliefs can feel really...real! Part of reducing anxiety is recognizing these kinds of thoughts and feelings, while "talking back" to them. This works for adults and kids. You may have heard the term "self talk", and for kids, I like to use the term "red light thinking"/"green light thinking". The important thing about positive self talk, or green light thinking, is that we have to believe it for it to be meaningful against our anxieties and fears.
In this post, I will offer a few "green light thoughts" that I believe are super powerful in the struggle against anxiety.
Amazingly, this great world and expansive universe and galaxies around us, are extraordinarily predictable. This awe-some thing called gravity seems to hold us all in place, everyday, every moment. There is something holding us, in an ordered, safe, sensible way that we can deeply trust in.
In the NorthEast, we have seasons. Every year, the leaves fall, and winter comes. If we were extraterrestrials arriving during February, we might think that everything is dead on our planet. Yet every April, everything comes alive again, with the earliest of Daffodils. It can seem like the hard times will last forever, but they don't, and the evidence is all around us.
Every single day, the night comes, and every morning the sun comes up. We can absolutely count on it (unless you live in Alaska, then this tip would look different!). Wake up at sunrise and go for a walk. Enjoy the brilliance of the moment, listen to the birds sing. Bask in the security that comes from intentionally considering the predictability and consistency of the sunrise. It's good for your circadian rhythms too!
Learn more about Monarch butterflies. Do you know that every single year, they fly down to the same area of Mexico to specific trees where they can safely reside through the Northeastern winters? Then, even more amazingly, it takes many generations of Monarchs to fly back to the NE to lay their eggs. How do they know where they're supposed to go? How do they find the place they need to be in order to survive? Is their purpose somehow encoded in their DNA? Is ours? What would our inner experience and our lives as a whole feel and look like if we believed that it is? If we could trust that our bodies knew what to do?
Every person on this planet is a part of this rhythm that exists. The way that a fetus grows into a baby inside of the mother's womb. It's predictable, it follows a trajectory. Every need of the growing baby in the womb is taken care of--we are built that way. We each follow a trajectory of development that is largely predictable. Our cells regenerate without thought, we breathe without thought. We can trust in it. Trees provide us with oxygen and shade, and our Earth was somehow born with everything we need to survive. Whatever this rhythm is, it is strong and it is smart.
Speaking of babies, did you know that when a breast fed baby cries when separated from mom, often mom will experience a let down of milk? As though she is somehow attuned biologically to her infant, even after birth? We are built to connect, to thrive. We are made this way. And we are all a part of this sacred, dependable rhythm--it's inside of each of us!
These are just a few examples of how I see this rhythm of life and how I understand myself and all other people and animals to be a part of it. What does your spirituality look like? Can you create your own bullet points, and center yourself in them? And here's a big one: Can you practice separating the imperfections of humanity from the order, dependability and gratifying nature of the world around us? This isn't easy to do! Like anything, it is a practice. But it's a practice that can bring acceptance, self worth, gratitude and even peace.