Can a walk in nature unveil anxiety, sadness, depression, helplessness or hopelessness?  Could it unveil anger, frustration, or a desire to travel or a feeling of strength, power, and happiness?

Yes, it can through a particular exercise.

Here are some examples:

A few years ago, when I went for a walk at the beach, my attention was drawn to a monarch butterfly flying gracefully from flower to flower.  I tried to look at the sky, the ocean, the beach but my attention only wanted to focus on the beautiful butterfly.  I then started the exercise, pretending I was the butterfly and giving it a voice:

“I am a brown and yellow, elegant monarch butterfly.  I love flying from flower to flower.  I don’t want to stay in one place.  I want to travel, see the world”.

As I said “I want to travel, see the world”, tears came to my eyes.  Those words touched me deeply.  I was not talking as if I was a butterfly anymore.  I was talking as myself.  I had touched a secret unconscious part of myself that I had refused to see: I had lost my husband to cancer 2 years earlier and I was exhausted.  I needed a break from work. I needed to travel, see the world, start a new life… which I ultimately did thanks to this new awareness.

Originally Published on Psychology Today

© Dr. Chris Gilbert, MD, PhD

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