Build Resilience through Nature Connection

Observe and Interact

The primary intention of The Resiliency Institute is building resilience at the individual and community level through nature connection.  Permaculture design is based on the functions of natural systems and by developing a deep understanding of these functions one can create resilient systems.  Resilience is your “bounce back factor” (Brene Brown) – it is your ability to cope with and recover from stress and adversity.  One well-researched way to build resilience at the individual level is through mindfulness.  Though similar to meditation, mindfulness is not its synonym, rather meditation is a tool that can create mindfulness.  Mindfulness is the cultivating of a witness-self, or non-reactive, inner observer, to assess emotional and mental (cognitive) patterns as well as physical experiences.  Mindfulness reprograms how your body interacts with the internal and external milieu.  For example, you can WATCH anger rise internally after a driver cuts you off without lashing out in reactivity, or when you pause and FEEL the difference in your body before and after doing a yoga pose.  You are paying attention:  observant and sensitive to new states of being. This new state of being is mindfulness, which can reduce stress, create a state of eudaimonia (i.e. well-being, prosperity), and facilitate resilience.

Because we are of the natural world, being in nature on its own reduces stress and builds resilience (more information on nature therapy here).  You can maximize the benefits of nature by utilizing mindfulness techniques while in the presence of the natural world, such as forest bathing, which The Resiliency Institute offers on a regular basis.  However, if you cannot attend a forest bathing outing, consider cultivating mindfulness through the use of a Sit Spot.  Pick a place outside that you feel pulled to – a favorite tree, for example, and sit there, present, quiet, observant. Close your eyes if you need to, dropping into a deeper state of being.  Listen for wind or wildlife – what do they sound like?, what direction are the sounds coming from?, what emotions come up?  Feel the chill of a breeze on your skin or in your hair – where do you feel the sensation and how does your body respond?  If you have multiple trees in an area, can you hear the difference of the breeze between the bare branches of deciduous trees verses the brushy needles of pines.  Catch the fragrance of the earth – can you detect the smell of conifers or soil?  Cultivating mindfulness in the presence of nature creates relationship with a place – you are attending, observant, while the place serves you via a mental, emotional, even physical reset through mindfulness.  “Attention is the beginning of devotion” (Mary Oliver, poet).   This relationship and reciprocity with Earth is integral to our capacity to connect fully to the world around us.  Our willingness to re-write that destructive trajectory into a story of mutual healing.

For sit spot inspiration, see a poem Allison wrote in devotion to her own sit spot located on the beautiful McDonald Farm property, “Sit Spot.”

Do you have a sit spot?  Please write us or share with us on social media, your experience.  Contact us to arrange your personal guided forest bathing and sit spot experience!


Written by Dr. Allison Mitch, PT (DPT), in gratitude for her community and earth. 

A Walk in the Woods – Forest Therapy

Forest Therapy walk at Morton Arboretum
Forest Therapy walk at Morton Arboretum. Click image to watch a video.

“As I move slowly through the forest I notice the leaves of jewelweed whirling in different directions in the cool, sweet breeze; small bees flying, landing on a flower, drinking nectar, then flying to the next flower; the busy ants working together to carry various loads to their destination; a blue jay welcome call…”

“I notice that in the beginning I have to consciously slow myself down, that my mind and body are adjusting to a new pace. As the walk continues, my pace has adjusted, my mind and body have slowed down, and I feel so relaxed and happy that I don’t want the walk to end.”  ~ Michelle Hickey

Jodi Trendler and I participated in Forest Therapy Guide training in June at the Morton Arboretum under the guidance of Amos Clifford and Maria Buitenhaus of the Association of Nature & Forest Therapy. The Resiliency Institute will be offering Forest Therapy walks this summer and fall and invites you to enjoy a walk in the woods to reduce your stress, connect with nature, and have new experiences.

To RSVP for a Forest Therapy walk, visit our course calendar.