With the Summer Solstice this Friday and the summer season well and truly underway, Claire de Boursac, founder of Nature as Nurture and humanistic psychotherapist, shares how connecting with the seasons can help us thrive year-round.
As a psychotherapist and nature-wellbeing practitioner, I’m passionate about helping people thrive. The stresses and strains of modern living lie behind many of the challenges clients bring and I’ve found that nature can offer a powerful and effective remedy. One element of this is paying attention to the cycle of the year, noticing the changing seasons and aligning with where we are.
In the UK we have four clear seasons, each with its own distinct character. Nature represents stillness and simplicity in winter, growing energy and productivity in the spring, blooming fullness during the summer months and a process of harvesting, releasing and slowing down in the autumn.
The movement through the seasons is natural. It happens every year. Yet, many people struggle with this. I think the part of the problem is that we are disconnected from nature and from our own natural rhythms. We try to operate in a constant way, as if a machine when in fact we are an animal creature and intimately connected to nature. This is perhaps most evident in winter when our energy typically drops and, like nature, we want to slow and rest. I hear my therapy clients become self critical as they lose interest in those early morning gym classes and reach for warm hearty stews, feeling guilty that the salads stay untouched. This is normal and healthy. Our body is wise and lets us know what it but our modern lives and attitudes mean we override it or feel bad about these impulses. When we fail to recognise and respond to our own changing rhythms we make demands on our body that it simply can’t meet. This has a cost to our wellbeing.
For those who follow the meteorological definitions we are now in summer, with our hottest season of the year starting on June 1st. Those following the astrological definition won’t declare summer has started until the solstice on 21st June. Arguments about start dates aside, we’re all agreed that summer is the season of long, warm evenings drinking cold drinks without wearing a coat (and sometimes regretting that and buying an emergency umbrella!). It’s the season where streets, pubs and parks are full of people relaxing and basking in the sunshine and where everyone seems to be significantly happier and friendlier than they were back in January.
Looking to nature we see the flowers are out and at their brightest, splashes of colour popping against the riot of lush greens. Trees are full of birds, returned from their winter retreats and singing their little hearts out. There is a real sense of abundance and full-of-life-ness. It’s a time of self-expression. Like the flowers in bloom we want to express ourselves, to meet and be social, to be out in the world.
Generally speaking, the summer is the easiest season for most people. You may well feel more energetic and active at this time of year. There is an energy available for self-expression and creativity. It’s a great time to follow these impulses.
A summer journal prompt
This mid point in the year is a great time to reflect on what you’ve brought into being since January. These can be achievements and goals but also experiences that you made happen- such as a get-together with friends or a lovely moment you spent curled up reading your book. You manifested it all, so it counts! Include small things as well as larger achievements, personal shifts as well as professional. Honour this and hold gratitude for yourself. Then ponder what you’d like to harvest by autumn and consider if there are any steps you need to take to realise this dream.
Summer isn’t all plain sailing. For those suffering with hay fever the levels of pollen or pollution can be a pain. If that’s you, I recommend you get your dose of vitamin nature through woodland walks rather than grassy parks. People managing their relationship with alcohol or living a sober life have told me that they find the increased amount of boozy social events of the summer a real challenge.
For some the very fullness of this season can be a challenge. Our diaries may reflect the abundance of nature as all these expressions translate into events, projects, drinks in the sunshine etc. The longest day of the year (summer solstice) is a whopping 8hrs 49 mins longer than the shortest day (winter solstice) and we can be tempted to fill those extra hours with activity. This can lead to doing too much and sleeping too little.
If you recognise yourself in this description of over-doing here are some simple ways to use nature as an antidote.
- Take time to be outside at the beginning and end of your day. Just 5 minutes with your bare feet on the earth, either in a local park or your back garden will help ground you and set a calm tone for the day.
- Release your day into the earth. Stand or lie on the ground. Bring your awareness to your breath. With your outbreath, consciously release all that is left over from the day, into the earth. This may include thoughts or concerns in your mind and any tension in your body.
- Lie on the ground and stare at the sky. Notice the spaciousness. Bring your awareness to your breath and as you inhale, imagine that you’re drawing this sense of spaciousness into your being.
- Slow your pace and enjoy summer’s bounty by pausing to smell all the flowers as you walk down the street.
A seasonal self check in – can be done in any season:
- Take a walk in nature, leaving your devices behind. Engage all your senses and take in the sights, sounds, smells and textures. Be here, now. Once you feel you’ve connected with the place and season you’re in, allow something to catch your attention – it could be an object such as a leaf or feather or it could be a scene you observe – perhaps a bee pollinating a flower or leaf falling from a tree. Trust your feeling that this is the thing calling you. Spend some time pondering what you saw. What are the qualities of the object/ scene? Could you do with more or less of these qualities in your life right now? Are there any wider messages or teaching this object/ scene offers you at this time? When you’re finished offer gratitude for the teaching.
Claire runs Seasonal Self workshops, supports workplace wellbeing through Seasonal Self at Work packages and can hold space for you and your family to have a soulful and fun seasonal check in together. Claire is also offering a Summer Solstice event on 21st June (Highgate, London)
Learn more about why it is important to connect with nature for our wellbeing.