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A Little Bit of Nature goes a long way by Charles Luff.

In 2020 I was diagnosed with GAD. Generalized Anxiety Disorder. A name for how I had been feeling, but a disconcertingly vague one. And then, in October 2023 when I realised I needed help, I was woefully ill-equipped to face it. ‘GAD’ didn’t describe the over-thinking, the hopelessness, the paranoia, and the imposter syndrome that I had felt for nearly three decades.  

For more info on GAD please check this link:

Desperate to get better (though as one of my friends told me – I didn’t need to ‘get’ better, I needed to ‘feel’ better), I accessed everything available to me – medication, meditation, counseling, support groups, CBT, lists of my daily gratitudes, time away from work. You name it, I probably tried it.

But things remained extremely dark for a very long time. GAD is incredibly insidious. There is no hiding from the fact that I became very self-centered, found any reason to stay safely cocooned at home, and lost contact with family and friends – “because who would want to see me like this?” The future was too painful to consider and making decisions required a superhuman amount of effort. I would strongly recommend Jonas A Horwitz’s book “How to Stop Feeling so Damn Depressed” at this point – I genuinely felt that he was talking directly to me! Extraordinary.

But one day I took a step towards something scary and unpredictable, fraught with danger and offering little hiding place… I went outside.

A scene from Snipedales Country Park Lincolnshire (photo by Steve Thompson)

All my other strategies were still vitally important to aid my recovery, but there was something so honest, so pure, so grounded about walking, especially ‘in nature’, that became more addictive than spending days hiding away from the world. I began to enjoy and celebrate silence –  because once the noise in my head began to recede and I could hear the birds and the wind in the trees, I became even more aware of my senses. I began to be able to control my breathing and develop mindfulness of my surroundings, and accordingly, my senses began to work overtime. Key to this was the sense of ‘sitting (or more accurately, walking) in the moment’. Swapping the air in my lungs, feeling the fresh air on my face, walking with purpose, and a growing awareness of the power and enormity of nature all contributed to feeling more alive...

The Dawn Chorus is a reminder to us all of the power of nature

A 5,4,3,2,1 Sensory Appreciation became part of my everyday thinking. 5 things, I could see, 4 things I could hear, 3 things I could touch, 2 things I could smell, and one thing I could taste. And the next day, I would observe new things, and change my focus. Identifying nature and life as a continuum, of which I would be a component for a very short time in the grand scheme of things, became comforting. Having felt so dislocated from the world, I began to feel part of something again.  

The beautiful Silver Studded Blue (photo by Steve Thompson)

I’m not there yet. I have a lot of work to do to understand my life and how to respond to it. But I do know that taking a deep breath and opening that front door was a massive step towards finding the peace and contentment that I wanted.

As Rachel Carson, the American conservationist observed: "There is something infinitely healing in the repeated refrains of nature—the assurance that dawn comes after night, and spring after the winter."

The following are details of various people/charities who could help you if you are struggling with your mental health. Never be afraid to talk, It's ok to not be ok.

Bro Pro UK: (Lincolnshire-based at the moment)

Samaritans 116123

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