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Guest bloggers: Brant Secunda and Mark Allen (adapted from their new book, "Fit Soul, Fit Body")
If you're depressed, stressed out, anxious, or fatigued, the cure might be right outside your door. New research from Holland shows that people who live near a park or wooded area experience less depression and anxiety. And a study from the UK found that a walk in the country reduces depression in 71% of participants. Scientists have long known that sunlight can ease depression—especially SAD, or seasonal affective disorder, in winter.
When you tap into the regenerative power of your environment, it can have instant and profound effects on your mood, transforming negative emotions such as fear, depression, anger, and anxiety into a peaceful, happy state of mind. Try these techniques:
See the big picture. To bring fear or worry into perspective, focus on a positive event in nature that will continue whether you face your fear or not. Recall the colors of the last sunrise you saw, or think of the present season and its inevitable progression into the next one. You'll see that such large events continue—whether you and your fears are there or not.
Embrace the darkness. At night, find a place in nature where you're not surrounded by things manmade and the only light is the stars. Get enveloped in the welcome darkness, listen to the sounds of nature, and connect to your world.
Get lit up. Set your alarm in time to get outside when it's still dark. As the sun is rising, concentrate on the dawning light. The sun's rays transform the darkness of night into the brilliance of day. It will brighten your mood naturally too.
Get "soleful" love. Take a walk outside—someplace where you feel peaceful. Put one foot in front of the other slowly, and quiet your internal chatter. With each step, visualize the earth's love coming into your body through your feet and dissolving any problems you have.
Center between earth and sky. Sit or lie on the ground outside. Visualize the light of the sun entering the top of your head, filling your heart and body, and then going down into the earth. Feel the earth beneath you, and draw the love of the earth up into your heart and body, and then send it up to the sun. Feel your connection to all life.
Invoke the deep spirit. The Huichols use the image of the deer to represent innocence, gentleness, and clarity. To melt away emotional stress, visualize the image of a deer surrounded by a circle. Ask the deer, out loud or to yourself, to help you find harmony and balance, and help you to stand tall like a tree.
Fight negativity with fire. Transform negative emotions such as fear, anger, and jealousy by sitting before a fire outside or a candle inside and looking at the flame. Imagine your heart opening like a flower and see yourself breathing in the fire's light. Do this for about 5 minutes. This technique also gives immediate relief to the part of your body that's holding the emotion (e.g., your stomach).
Shaman-healer Brant Secunda and world champion Ironman Mark Allen teach seminars worldwide on fitness, health, and well-being. Their new book, based on the approach they developed, is Fit Soul, Fit Body: 9 Keys to Healthier, Happier You (BenBella Books). Find out more at www.fitsoul-fitbody.com.