Green spaces for trauma


In UK the warmth is seemingly elusive but longer days and activities does tend to mean we are outside more. How can being outside help us when we are facing trauma? When we are in trauma our minds and bodies become dys-regulated, we become tense, our hearts race and our bodies can literally hold in tension. If stress is prolonged or sustained as a result of trauma, our bodies can store symptoms such as tension headaches or IBS. Learning to regulate means using our minds to let our bodies know they are safe. Being able to breathe deeply and take in oxygen increases our blood flow and that improves circulation which helps to decrease tension in the body.

The simple act of looking at the world around us and noticing little details such as a bird or a flowing river distracts our thought patterns and helps us to focus on the here and now. We move from trauma -then to safety – now.

Taking in and appreciation a slither of beauty helps us to feel a sense of safety and calm. A recent paper by the University of Michigan recommends that spending 30 to 40 minutes of your day in green spaces. There are many projects introducing green spaces in cities – so important in a world of hyper-activity and fast pace reactivity. Simply looking at green can reduce the levels of the stress hormone cortisol, allowing our bodies and minds to feel safe and at ease – better equipped to cope with stressful situations.

Some of us are able to make use of a garden and the simple act of caring for plants acts as a form of mindfulness as we are focusing on tending to plants and nurturing them. The Glasshouse project was featured on Chelsea Flower Show this year. This is a social enterprise in Kent that offers second chances to women nearing the end of their prison sentences. They grow and nurture beautiful houseplants. Those involved write:

‘Plants in the workspace are proven to increase productivity, concentration and creativity as well as clean toxins in the air and increase oxygen levels’.

If you don’t have a garden you can consider adding plants into your home. If you are able to get to a local forest the act of forest bathing has become popular. This involves going to a quieter part of the woods and meditating with your eyes open as you take in your surroundings. It can help to soften your focus by slightly closing your eyes. By switching off from electronic devices and soaking up that atmosphere of the forest you can help to pay attention and develop a sense of calm within yourself.