A quick scan of popular wellness websites for the word rejuvenation, results in countless quick tips on how to feel renewed, energetic and stress free. Sounds good, right? Lots of suggestions, some better than others, but what nearly all the lists have in common, is getting outside. Whether it is a quick walk around the block with the dogs, or a day long adventure on the trails, we know that when it comes to rejuvenating the body, mind and spirit, getting outside is highly effective. Because, quite simply, it works.
There are countless studies supporting the positive impact of being out in nature. Even simply listening to nature sounds can have a significant effect on our cognition, nervous system and physical well being.
Perhaps my favorite, is a longitudinal study involving residents of Denmark. Researchers Kristine Engemann et. al, assessed participant exposure to green space from birth to age 10. They compared this with longitudinal data on individual mental health outcomes. Data from more than 900,000 residents born between 1985 and 2003 was examined. Researchers found that children who lived in neighborhoods with more green space had a reduced risk of psychiatric disorders later in life, including depression, mood disorders, schizophrenia, eating disorders and substance use disorder. For those with the lowest levels of green space exposure during childhood, the risk of developing mental illness was 55% higher than for those who grew up with abundant green space.
And findings regarding the rejuvenating effects that nature has on our stress level and overall health are not limited to greenery and open space. Water, nature sounds and even photographs of nature all produce similar effects. Nature repairs our system in small and large doses.
And this got me thinking.
In psychotherapy there is a phenomenon known as the reparative experience. It's kind of the psychotherapeutic parallel to rejuvenation, but focusing on the unconscious. It’s an interesting treatment concept and one that has shown success with my own patients, primarily children. The desired outcome of a reparative experience is to soothe the patient’s deep internal hypervigilance. A settling and grounding of an internal churning that results from large amounts of distress, mostly in response to needs going unmet. Why this comes to mind in terms of rejuvenation, is that the method used in repairing what is lacking from early childhood experience is often as quiet and still as being out in nature. A type of witnessing and being held. A wide focus and deeply felt experience provided by the therapist, similar to what nature can provide. In action, offering a reparative experience or relationship in therapy can be as simple as being listened to.
Sometimes in my own practice with children, a reparative experience was created around being witnessed. Watching a child work through a game, or a challenge. Watching a child enjoy a coloring book. To bear witness with sparse and simple mirroring to the patient what was being seen. Noticing a color choice, the thickness of a line. A gesture of concentration. Offering a reflection of the realness of the experience is at the core of the repair. And I think this reflection, space, moment of pause and acknowledgement of the present moment acts as a catalyst for rejuvenation. These moments of acknowledgement and witness actually do repair. And in a very quiet yet profound way.
And perhaps this is what rejuvenation is about. A quiet and deep healing. The act of being present, to acknowledge and witness and mirror the outside with the potential that lies within.For more on REJUVENATION listen to JOY IS NOW Episode 65 with Dr. Wallace J. Nichols