Think like a tree
Throughout my training, it has become more and more significant to me that we, as human beings tend to disconnect with the earth and all things natural around us. We share a spiritual, emotional and physical connection with nature and the more I have explored these connections, the more I am convinced of its power to heal and promote natural health and well-being.
Looking around me now, the season is changing from summer to autumn. The weather is changing, the temperature is dropping and the nights are drawing in sooner. As I look outside my window every day, I count myself lucky that I am blessed with being surrounded by the countryside and even more lucky to have some striking trees in my garden. Observing the trees I find it fascinating how they are shaped by their environment and more noticeably the seasons.
As a health coach, I am striving for simplicity in my work. I draw upon this observation of the trees and their ability to adapt because, in many ways we are like trees. We too are shaped by our surroundings, the good and the bad.
I believe that to look after ourselves is an easy thing to do. It requires a few simple things and requires little effort really. When I work with a client and start introducing the ideas surrounding natural health, I like to invite them to start looking at their body like they would a tree.
I begin by asking them the question:
'what does a tree need to survive?'
A tree needs space, fresh air, strong roots in good quality soil, a strong, flexible trunk and plenty of sunlight, water and air.
Now looking at the human body, we are not dissimilar to trees in that we need pretty much the same things to survive. We need our roots (digestive system and renal system) healthy and connected with the earth. We need to be hydrated and allowed to stretch out like the branches of a tree and take in good quality sunlight and air. We need a strong, flexible trunk (core body). All these things enable the body to adapt to changing environments and thrive throughout.
Without one of these things the tree would not be able to survive, if something goes wrong with the roots the tree has an inability to uptake nutrients that power life so the rest of the tree begins to suffer. It is when one of these primary defences is down, the tree becomes diseased, overwhelmed and dies.
So when we look at health imbalances in the human body, we use the same principle, we are looking for the 'root' problem. We are looking out for a weakness or absence of one of these core defences, a weakness in one of the chain links that has lead up to this imbalance. And its usually very simple.
It tends to boil down to a lack of one of the essentials, Light, Space, Water, Root, Air.
The human body does its best for us, it copes when there are insufficiencies or deficiencies. It copes until it becomes overwhelmed and starts having problems. So Like a tree, every thing in the human body is connected from head to toe.
This time of year, nature changes around us. Animals are getting ready for hibernation and survival over the winter months, the trees lose their leaves fall and everything starts to slow down. These are natural processes that are in keeping with the natural cycle of the earth. With less in abundance nature prepares and looks after itself so that it has a good chance of getting through the more challenging times.
We observe these changes but many of us disassociate ourselves with this natural process of adaptation. This is the perfect model for us as human beings to follow. Without a nod to the seasonal change, the body finds its very hard to cope.When winter approaches, this part of the earth receives less sunlight, the air grows colder. A tree acknowledges these changes and adapts, this ability to adapt keeps its alive. With shorter and colder days its is appropriate to keep in mind what the body needs and be pro-active in preparing our bodies for winter too. A tree loses its leaves to preserve life force energy, so what can we be doing to preserve our life-force energy and maintain our health and happiness throughout the winter months.
So lets examine some of the main causes of ill health during this time of year.
There is always a 'root' problem to unearth....
Viruses and bugs:
f asked people usually dread the 'common cold' and flu viruses going around. Most fear and even expect to catch these bugs.
Many often complain of feeling completely drained, sleep deprived and utterly exhausted.
With less sunlight available and colder weather, lots of people feel depressed and generally miserable.
A few simple ways to combat these and stay immune strong this winter.
Like a tree needs its nutrients, as do we, for without it we would be unable to adapt, grow, defend ourselves. We all know that after a heavy weekend, with drinking and smoking, little sleep etc we sometimes drop the next day and are more likely to get ill. This is because these habits leave the body completely depleted and less able to defend itself when something harmful comes along. The same goes for ongoing stress, for example a deadline approaching. The exhaustion felt in the aftermath of a stressful situation is often followed by a collapse bought on by a cold/flue etc. These examples just show how the body can shaped by its surroundings, when a situation is powerful enough and or ongoing, it depletes the body rendering it susceptible to illness and disease.
So it pays to keep looking after the body throughout the year, keeping its stocked up with all the things its needs to not only survive but to thrive.! Here are a few sure fire ways to do so....
Our bodies need different foods according to the time of year and the environment. Seasons form the natural backdrop for eating. All of the World's Healthiest Foods are seasonal. Imagine a vegetable garden in the dead of winter. Now imagine this same garden on a sunny, summer day. How different things are during these two seasons of the year! Seasons are considered a source of natural diversity. Changes in growing conditions from spring to summer to autumn to winter are considered essential for balancing the earth's resources and its life forms. But today it's so easy for us to forget about seasons when we eat! Modern food processing and worldwide distribution of food make foods available year-round, and grocery stores shelves look much the same in December as they do in July.
Around this time of year when the temperature drops, our bodies need warmth from cooked seasonal food. It seems silly to still be eating copious amounts of salads and summery food in October!
Think of all food having a function, having a message and a quality that the bodies receives and chooses how to process. So it;s useful to have a good relationship with the food we chose to fuel our bodies with. For example, if I'm feeling tired and cold I will instinctively turn to warming foods like spices and root vegetables to root my energy back in my body and warm me up from within. This mindful way of eating is a great way to feed the body with what it wants and needs, so in turn keeping it consistently strong and healthy.
We all struggle with stressful lifestyles, some more than others. Couple that with exposure to harmful chemical environments and other stressors the body is subjected too, its no wonder in the winter many get ill. It is this type of rushed, stress filled lifestyle that takes the body out of balance through a complete disconnection with out bodies and nature.
Adaptogens are a unique group of herbal ingredients used to improve the health of your adrenal system, the system that’s in charge of managing your body’s hormonal response to stress. They help strengthen the body’s response to stress and enhance its ability to cope with anxiety and fight fatigue – slowly and gently, without jolts or crashes. They’re called adaptogens because of their unique ability to “adapt” their function according to your body’s specific needs. Though the effects may initially be subtle and take time to make themselves felt, they’re real and undeniable.
Autumn is a natural time of transition which makes it an ideal time for a gentle detox in preparation for winter. The idea is to give the mind and body a rest, to give the body space to have a good think about what it needs and to clear out any excess toxin etc that can lead to ill health.
Good quality sleep:
Good quality sleep is another essential way the body detoxes and restores itself, ready for the next day. Without proper sleep the body loses its ability to accomplish these night-time goal and gets clogged up and overwhelmed. It is recommended to try and get to sleep between the hours of 10pm-12am for good, restful, restorative sleep.
Getting out into nature: Go hug a tree!
Other than the 'feel good' aspects of being outside in the fresh air, getting out into nature reminds the body of its deep connection with the earth and helps reaffirm any intention we have to keep this connection alive. Fresh air and movement are great detoxing methods too and are far more revitalising than running on a treadmill in the gym.
Stretching and Breathing:
Stretching is a powerful way to improve the bodies ability to adapt and detox. Allowing the muscles to open up and let toxin out, enhances the bodies capacity for growth and expansion. Tight, stressed muscles hold toxin and energetically, hold stress and discomfort. Letting go through a good, full body stretch routine encourages the body to naturally let go and unwind. Breathing with each stretch enhances the depth of stretch, range of motion and level of relaxation. Breathing in through nose stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system, the part of the nervous system responsible for relaxation and restfulness. Focussing on the out-breath (through the mouth) instead of the in-breath, encourages the body to naturally breath in more oxygen without straining.
So throughout these autumn and winter months, get connected with nature, get immersed in it and welcome in the seasonal change, its a chance to take a leaf out of natures book and look after ourselves, to simply slow down.