Connecting with nature can have a very grounding effect on the mind and the body. Nature and Forest Therapists recommend finding a Sit Spot for yourself — a place where you can regularly visit and connect with the earth. Even in urban environments, finding a regular Sit Spot is wildly beneficial for body, mind and soul.
How to find a Sit Spot
Finding a Sit Spot may be as easy as looking to your own backyard. I have a gorgeous tree in my yard that provides shade on sunny days that I’ve chosen for my Sit Spot. A few of the roots are partially exposed, and bees love to buzz overhead when it blossoms in the spring. It’s also a great place to connect with nature because I know no one is going to walk up and disturb me — or if they do, it’s a member of my family. In other words, I feel safe there.
If you have a quiet place in your front or backyard, then pick a part of it for your Sit Spot. If you live in an apartment or city, select a small part of a nearby park for your Sit Spot. You can select a bench or large rock to sit on, or you can just sit down on the ground. Once you’ve found your place, simply sit, relax and observe the world around you.
Here are some of the many benefits:
1. You’ll experience improved mindfulness
Much like meditation, a Sit Spot offers a great way to engage in self-guided mindfulness training. Attention Restoration Theory (ART) states that when we’re out in nature, our ability for directed attention is restored. It’s easy to lose this as we go about our busy lives, but a Sit Spot interrupts the pattern of your fatigue or stress. As you sit and observe the world around you, you are training your brain to focus on one thing at a time, without the distraction of technology or the interruption of a coworker or family member. Soon, you’ll find yourself able to just “be” when you’re in your Sit Spot.
2. You’ll get a chance to disconnect
While there’s no right or wrong way to enjoy your Sit Spot, be sure to leave your phone at home or on your desk. You should be able to enjoy a 30-minute Sit Spot experience without your phone, no matter how much it may annoy you the first time out. For most of us, nothing earth-shattering or life-changing is going to happen during that time. Emails and texts can wait until you are done with your practice. The effect might surprise you by helping you approach those messages with a calmer outlook.
3. You’ll connect with nature
If your Sit Spot has a water element to it, which is ideal, then you’ll have more chances of observing different types of wildlife. Birds, squirrels and — depending on when you go — deer might happen across your path. Even a park with a duck pond will reveal a number of different species of waterfowl and fauna. Plus, as you make visiting your Sit Spot a regular practice, you’ll begin to notice changes in the seasons in the wildlife and plant life around you.
4. Your stress levels will drop
According to Psychoevolutionary Theory (PET), our positive response to nature is due to our evolutionary development. The outdoors were our first home, and it’s believed that being around natural resources helps lower our stress levels. A Japanese study published in 2010 examined the practice of Shinrin-yoku or “forest bathing,” and found that there’s credence to the theory.
People who regularly spent time in nature experienced lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol, lower blood pressure, lower pulse rate and lower sympathetic nerve activity than those who did not get out in nature. Other research also shows that the consumption of Mycobacterium vaccae — a bacterium found in soil — helps decrease anxiety levels.
5. You’ll experience improved mood
Being indoors all day can leave you feeling unhappy. If you work indoors, your whole day — even the time you’re in the car — is detached from nature to some degree. But getting outside can have a profound impact on your mood. A 2015 study from Stanford University found that people who walked in nature, as opposed to those who walked the same length of time in an urban setting, experienced less anxiety, less rumination or focused attention on the negative parts about yourself, and had a more positive outlook overall.
6. You might become more creative
One of the other great benefits of a Sit Spot is it can help boost your creativity. When you detach from everyday distractions, you relieve attention fatigue. We have all experienced brain fog or simply feeling drained after a particularly difficult task at work. Moving away from things that demand our attention, or taking a Sit Spot break in your workday, can help boost creativity.
In 2012, a study from the University of Kansas found that people on a four-day backpacking trip were able to solve puzzles easier and quicker than the control group at a rate of 47 percent more. It stands to reason that shorter periods outside have a positive effect on your creativity as well. Another study, published in the journal Psychological Science, found that being out in nature helps restore people’s ability to pay attention to harder tasks afterward.
7. You will become kinder
As you connect with nature on a more regular basis, it’s impossible to avoid the sense that you are just one part of a much larger whole. Researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, found in a series of studies published in 2014 that people who regularly observe and engage with nature experience higher levels of generosity, trust and a willingness to help others when compared to those who don’t get out among the birds and trees.
It’s clear getting out in nature is good for us, but giving yourself a place to relax in the form of a Sit Spot might make your life better in ways you can only imagine.
Do you have a Sit Spot? Let us know in the comments below!
— Megan Winkler