How nature can help you be happier, more relaxed, or find a greater sense of meaning in life, when you spend time near water
In the Little Book of Nature Blessings, Teresa Dellbridge explains how inland waters can soothe anxiety and help to heal your ailments.
Before you start on your journey to connect with nature, it will help to get prepared. You’ll need a journal to keep track of your experiences; choose something attractive, that you’ll be drawn to writing in.
You can also create a nature table. Get a small table or use a shelf or cupboard top and make it into your own personal space to focus your thoughts. Place on it natural objects, such as shells, feathers and crystals, that you find inspirational and beautiful, and which connect you with nature.
Enjoy rivers, ponds and inland waterways
Rivers and streams, ponds and lakes, man-made waterways such as canals – these are all places of special blessing, where you will find tranquillity as well as plenty to fascinate you. Life buzzes, splashes, slithers and snuffles around you, if you stay still and observe. Some of the most picturesque places on Earth involve lakes and waterfalls.
Rivers play a vital role in the water cycle. They help drain 75 per cent of the Earth’s land surface and are excellent habitats and food sources. Lakes cover 3.7 per cent of the continental land surface.
Early humans worshipped springs as the milk of the Goddess coming from within the Earth. Water meant survival, in drinking, cooking, cleaning and building. Before extensive farming and fertilising, nearly all water would have been drinkable. As you sit beside a clear stream, imagine how wonderful it would have been to come upon this place, tired and thirsty, after a day’s travelling. How your dry throat would have welcomed the water and your aching feet its cool caress.
Get outside to help your mental health and wellbeing
What rivers and ponds teach you
They are some of the strongest calls to your inner child. Remember how you longed to play by the water’s edge when you were young, and all the things you saw that fascinated you.
You can find cleansing and healing near waters. Often, they are the place to go when your soul is torn by the actions of a loved one, bereavement or failure, bringing you subtle reassurance that things are not quite as bad as they seem.
How rivers and lakes can help your mental health
We take water totally for granted, yet it is a mysterious substance whose gifts we can tune into, with great benefits at all levels. The unique properties of water make it possible for life to exist. When other substances move from liquid to solid state, the solid state is heavier, and it sinks. If this were to happen with water, all living creatures within lakes would die when ice forms. But because ice floats, warmer water remains beneath it and the life is protected. Water also has a special ability to dissolve other substances and carry them away – making a “soup of life”. And when we need it to, water can cleanse and purify.
Bear this in mind when you linger by the edge of a stream or a lake. Those silver, lapping ripples are composed of molecules that have been all around the world, evaporating into clouds, falling as rain, heaving within the ocean – and now glistening at your feet. If the water could speak, what would it tell you? Is the water carrying dreams and impressions? Could it carry yours? Can it take away your troubles and leave you with a better outlook? Surely it can bring everything into perspective? Bring all your attention into your presence by the water. What can you see, hear and feel, both physically and emotionally?
Wild swimming and boating
Wild swimming is an increasingly popular activity and a great way to refresh body and soul. It simply means swimming in natural bodies of water – lakes, ponds, rivers or, of course, the sea. Some people like to wild-swim their way around the country for intimate and dramatic bonding with the territory. I will never forget the sensual and magical experience of swimming in a river in Somerset some years ago. Although the water was very cold, I soon got used to it, feeling the green fronds brushing my limbs as if I were a water sprite and experiencing a great sense of adventure.
Always use your common sense: check local regulations, observe safety rules (some places are obviously a no-no, such as most of the Severn river in the west of England), take a companion, wear the right gear – and splash!
If you aren’t quite so hardy, a canal-boat holiday offers a lazy, soothing interlude to feel at one with friendly waters and see the countryside – and yourself – from another angle.
Let streams return you to childhood, as you race twigs down the current and watch to see if your leaf-boat will make it under a bridge. Trail your hands in the water and paddle, if you can.
Visit wells and springs, remembering these were sacred in olden times. Throw a silver coin into a wishing well and let yourself believe in magic. If you can, drink pure spring water and imagine it revitalising your being with sparkling energy. Life is the gift and the essence of water.
The Little Book of Nature Blessings
Discover more about connecting to nature in The Little Book of Nature Blessings by Teresa Dellbridge, published by Watkins on 10 March 2020, £10.99 in hardback.