Episode 126: Using Nature to Answer Your Big Questions With Henri Stevenson
Many of us spend most of our days within the four walls of our home and workplace. With everything we have to do, it seems challenging to set aside a few minutes out of our indoor spaces. But when you find the time to connect with nature, you might discover new perspectives and insights into your life.
Henri Stevenson joins us to talk about the ways connecting with nature can shift our thinking and open up new solutions. We discuss the differences in our thoughts and feelings when we’re in nature versus within artificial walls. She shares her stories of finding metaphors for life situations reflected in nature and what she learned from them. Henri reminds us that sometimes, the solutions to our problems may show up in quiet spaces when we take a few moments to connect with nature.
Curious about how to take time to learn and connect with nature? Learn how and much more when you tune into this episode!
Here are three reasons why you should listen to the full episode:
- Find out the importance of taking some time to relax and take your thoughts on a walk.
- Learn to connect with nature in a way that fits your life (even if you only have 5 minutes!).
- Discover different perspectives on your life with the help of nature.
[05:33] How Henri Learned to Connect With Nature
[08:41] Stepping Out of the House and Office
- It’s helpful to go out and remove any distractions such as your phone and work.
- Doing this and going into nature alone lets you slow down and focus better.
- Having a dog to walk can help encourage and develop the habit of going out every day. However, their company may be a distraction, so find out what works best for you.
[09:48] Bringing Your Thoughts Into Nature
- You can take some time to breathe and ground yourself in your senses at the beginning of a walk. Take this moment to also listen to what your body may be trying to tell you.
- During this pause at the beginning, see if you have a question that you want to think through as you walk. Take that question along with you.
- You can also choose to see what happens as you go. Find out what thoughts come up as you walk in nature.
- This second option can provide unexpected insights about yourself and where the world takes you.
- People should listen to their gut feeling more. It’s easier to listen to your intuition when you connect with nature.
[10:58] ‘I think it’s just about getting out and seeing what you’re drawn to in nature, I think that always offers up some insights for ourselves of not putting, just seeing, just going with the flow and seeing where it takes you.’ – Click Here to Tweet This
[14:40] Life Lessons From Nature
- Each person perceives what they encounter on a walk differently. These insights that come can also give you a hint at what’s happening in your life.
- In one of Henri’s experiences, she found a connection in the stormy weather to her turbulent headspace.
- Nature can provide metaphors for your life. There is a lot to learn from our environment that can differ from person to person.
- Listen to the full episode for Henri’s story about being a tree in a storm!
[17:09] The Seasons of Life and Nature
- Just like nature, seasons come and bring different things into our lives.
- In winter, rest, death and hibernation occur. However, there is the growth we cannot see and energy saved.
- In spring, new life emerges, which then blooms in summer.
- Autumn signifies harvest when you appreciate and use what you reap from spring and summer. Additionally, it’s a time to make space and prepare for what’s to come.
- Like nature, our lives also have seasons that we cycle through.
[19:28] Finding Meanings
- People find meaning in and are drawn to different things.
- Stepping stones, bridges, and trees are common sights that often inspire insights in people.
- One coaching session was about teamwork. During that time, Henri found herself in a clearing surrounded by different trees belonging together.
- Her client was able to resonate with the sense of finding her place among different people.
- Nature shows significant diversity. Each part may be different, but they all complement and play their roles. Nature doesn’t judge for these differences.
[21:02] ‘We talk about diversity and inclusion so much, and nature’s the mirror: all of these different species and plants living together, doing their thing, complementing each other. And I think that provides a lesson, and nature doesn’t judge.’ – Click Here to Tweet This
[22:34] Learning in Relaxation
- Making time to be away from distractions can provide the space to process different events.
- Relaxation is when our brain can make connections and come up with solutions and new ideas.
- We can enter a state of relaxation when we connect with nature.
- Your movement stimulates the growth hormone and can also lead to physical benefits.
- Walking side-by-side with someone else provides an opportunity to connect and have deeper conversations.
[24:07] ‘I think when we’re in that relaxed space, that’s when the gold comes up and the ideas pop out’ – Click Here to Tweet This
[25:50] The Outside VS Office Perspective
- Being outside in nature reminds us that we are part of a bigger system. That there are things outside of our control.
- On the other hand, being inside can bring to focus the details that frustrate us.
- Many of Henri’s favourite memories were in the outdoors.
- Your perspective on what matters can shift when you’re outside.
- Nature reminds us that we aren’t in control. Things may change, but nature can ground and calm us.
[27:57] ‘We spend a lot of our time trying to control everything. And I think nature helps us recognise that we are not in control at all. And that’s okay.’ – Click Here to Tweet This
[28:45] Where to Connect with Nature
- It doesn’t matter where you go. Just going outdoors can be beneficial for most people.
- Just spend five to ten minutes in nature, breathe and see what interests you.
- This natural space can be anything from parks to rivers and even your garden or the animals around you.
- If you can’t go out, a picture of nature can serve as a way to get perspective.
[31:29] Setting Aside Time for Walk
- First, take a moment to check in with yourself, your body, and the thoughts in your mind.
- Don’t plan your walk too much.
- Just relax and switch off your brain as you walk around. Let yourself notice your environment and be grounded in nature.
- Even just a quick step outside can be the start of a healthy practice. Develop this habit of going out and let it grow.
- Real-life might limit our ability to go outside. While no distractions may be better, bringing things you need to do on your walk is alright.
- [32:36] ‘I think the most important thing is to just actually don’t overthink it, don’t really think.’
[32:36] ‘I think the most important thing is to just actually don’t overthink it, don’t really think.’ – Click Here to Tweet This
[36:54] A Long Retreat Into Nature
- Some might prefer taking a long time out immersing themselves in nature.
- There are many things you can do over a long period. You can do different outdoor activities alone or with company, such as a retreat.
- One such retreat will occur in September. Rachel and Henri welcome people to join them on this retreat.
- There will be good food, good conversations, guided walking and time to chill and relax.
- Retreats allow you to temporarily leave behind your burdens and take some space to get a different perspective on them.
[41:26] Henri’s Final Advice
- Start with getting out for even just 5 minutes.
- Take those 5 minutes to listen to nature and ground yourself.
- We can spend a lot of time in our heads. Going out and tuning into your body can grow a deeper understanding of your current life situations.
- Dive into the question that being outside can open.
Henri Stevenson is a leadership and personal development coach with 20 years. Throughout her career, she has worked with individuals, leaders and teams to improve performance and be the best they can be. Henri encourages building positive relationships and a healthy workplace environment. She lives up to her values of trust, openness and honesty to create a space for her clients to be themselves and inspire development.
Henri worked in Marketing and Public Relations before working in Internal Communications & Employee Engagement and then Learning & Development. From there, she has led multiple development and coaching programs. Henri is passionate about her work to help others improve performance and develop resiliency and a positive mindset.
You can learn more and connect with Henri and her work as a coach on her website.
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We spend a lot of our time trying to control everything and I think nature helps us recognise that we are not in control at all. And that’s okay. Things are gonna change, things are going to evolve, things are unknown. And if we can stay grounded within them and think nature helps you do that. And then we’re enabled to stay calm and less stressed and to be more creative.
Rachel Morris: Do you ever feel trapped within the same four walls? Do you feel disconnected from the natural world and wish you had the time and opportunity to experience all the joys of getting into nature. And so you need to get a bit of perspective on your life away from your screen to work out what’s really going on for you. Intuitively, we know that we’re often at our happiest when we’re outside, in a green or a blue space, hanging out in a natural environment.
I know that I do my best thinking when up a mountain, walking around a lake or just sitting under a tree. And with the hustle and bustle of everyday life, unless you have a dog or a serious Strava habit, many of us can go for days without experiencing anything of the great outdoors. And then we become trapped in our familiar man-made environments, often sitting down in front of screens and many of us find that we can’t even spare five minutes to get outside to recharge. Now there’s mounting evidence to show that regularly getting outside into nature can have profound effects on our mental health. So much so this even looking at a picture of a plant has beneficial effects.
So this week on the podcast, I’m joined by Henri Stevenson , one of our Shapes trainers and a leadership development coach who specialises in coaching in nature. We talk about why getting outside into nature can be so transformative, and we explore how we can take it one step further. And use the amazing metaphors available in nature to get some insights into our own lives. To get some perspective and to get unstuck, you don’t need to take an extended break backpacking through a rainforest to get this inspiration. Even a five-minute nature break in the local park can help shift things for you. So join us to find out the overwhelming case for scheduling in breaks in nature into your day, how to use your time in nature to answer some of the bigger questions you might have. And join us to find out some simple ways to start connecting with nature even if you’re stuck in a city, or just too busy.
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It’s really great to welcome onto the podcast Henri Stevenson. Hi Henri.
Henri Stevenson: Hello
Rachel: Henri is one of our Shapes trainers. She’s a leadership and Personal Development coach. Henri, I think you have a particular focus on confidence, leadership, resilience, and well-being. And the reason we’ve got Henri on today is because we wanted to talk about the power of nature and getting out into nature. And Henri, I know that you’re really passionate about coaching, and using nature as a bit of a different space for reflection and creativity, and making progress with things that were stuck on. So we’re gonna get into that and how it works, et cetera, et cetera. But first of all, how on earth did you get into the whole coaching in nature and going in next thing, because you’ve got a background in L&D, communications, working in an office, all that kind of stuff?
Henri: Yeah, it’s funny, actually, you just saying that reminds me. I remember when I was travelling in my 20s. And at that stage, I didn’t really know what I wanted to do with my life. And I remember somebody saying to me, “What do you want to do?” And I said, “I don’t know, I don’t know. But I know that I don’t want to work in an office.” And then I proceeded to spend the next 20 years of my life working in an office, which has been great and given me invaluable experience. But I did spend some time about three years when I worked for a charity, where we took young people that were not in education and employment, it was a youth development program, and we take them outdoors to the Peak District and do outdoor residentials. And that was probably when I was first introduced to personal development, and also introduced to just the power of nature, and really kind of connecting to nature and being in a different space.
However, I then didn’t do anything around that for another sort of 10 years, and I’ve been catching and training for the last 10 years about that. And in the last two years, I’ve started to work on my own and have my own business, which has given me a lot more flexibility. And in that I have now started to get a lot more and I think the pandemic has also helped that plus we got a dog, so that also helps. And by doing that, I’ve realised that there’s such a big part of me that is connected to nature and that I really feel passionate about it. And I noticed that the conversations I have with other people, when I’m working with them are different than when we’re on a screen.
The conversations I have with myself, which is a bit strange, but when thinking is different when I’m out in nature. And so I’d started to notice this, and then began to think how can I incorporate that more into my work? And how can I try this out in the coaching conversations that I have? And so I’m doing a lot more of that now and the feedback and from what I hear from people that I’ve been working with is really powerful. It is just a different space that helps us think in a different way and helps us feel calmer.
Rachel: Yeah, there’s a lot of research around isn’t there about well-being and nature and I think there’s one bit of research that says even having a picture of a plant on your wall, helps you mentally. Even a picture now I’m looking around my office, I’ve got a fern which I bought, and I forgot to water, so it’s half brown. I’ve actually got a fern behind me as well. But don’t tell anybody — that’s fake. But I have the most amazing view out onto a park and it’s wonderful. I have a friend who got a dog and every morning she has to get up and go out. And I said “Oh, isn’t that a bit of a hassle?” She said, no it’s absolutely vital to her because it’s where all her thinking occurs, really? And I don’t know if that’s the dog, or the nature. I’m guessing it’s nature rather than the dog. And it’s the dog getting out the door, right?
Henri: Yeah, exactly I think a dog does help. However, what I would say is that the times that I go out into nature on my own without the dog are even more powerful. Because even with the dog, you’re sort of distracted, there’s something else you’re aware of and looking after. But when I go on my own, and what I’ve noticed, actually, as well recently, more recently, in the last sort of few months is that when I was going for walks, I was listening to a podcast like this. I was training a friend, I was using it as a space to catch up on some things that I hadn’t done sitting in front of the screen. But actually, I’ve changed that now I always put my phone on silent when possible not always. I’m not 100% perfect. But that as much as I can, I turn my phone off. And if I go without the dog, which I tried to do a couple of times a week, then I just slow down completely. And I’m not distracted and I had much better thinking in that moment than I do when I’m distracted by the dog or whatever. But you’re right. I mean the dog just helps. It gives me a purpose, a reason to get out every day.
Rachel: I’m interested if he were to sit out on a walk on your own with you at the beginning of the walk and “What do I need to think about now?” And “Is there anything I need to solve?” And ask yourself some questions or would you just set off and see what occurs to you?
Henri: Well, I do both. Really, I think sometimes, I think if you’re not used to going out a lot, and obviously, I’m a coach so I’m always thinking of questions and I’m quite kind of familiar with being in that sort of space. But I think initially, just the first thing that I sometimes do is just get to get out and just pause actually, before even start walking, and just stand there and just take 30 seconds to breathe, and to listen to the birds a bit to just notice my feet on the ground, just to engage my senses. And then sometimes I’ll see if there’s a question that pops up or something that’s really on my mind that I want to think through. And if it is, then I’ll think right— take that question for a walk, so to speak. But other times, I think it’s just about getting out and seeing what you’re drawn to in nature, I think that always offers up some insights for ourselves of not putting, just seeing, just going with the flow and seeing where it takes you.
Rachel: I love that pause at the beginning to orient yourself, I guess a lot of us when we are walking next, we might have like 20 minutes on a lunch break, or we’re quickly whizzing around, but just that 30-second pause to connect with yourself. And I guess set an intention a little bit as well. Because I find if I just start off walking by I’m so distracted by all the stuff that’s been going on, and I end up going off on this and off on that thought. I also love the idea of taking a question for a walk. So thinking maybe to yourself, what is it? I’m stuck on at the moment?
Henri: Yep, exactly. And I think there’s something about listening to your body a bit. So we spend so much time in our heads. I do, I spend a lot of time in my head. And actually, I was reading something recently, there’s a guy called David Pearl and he talks about us having this ancient human navigation system within us, in our bodies. And actually, so much of our behaviours and what we do, are driven by how we feel. And which in terms of driven by the thoughts that we create, the feelings that we have that then create the behaviours that we had. And so I think our bodies have a lot to tell us about what’s going on for it.
So in that bit of pausing, I try and just check in with what am I feeling in my body? It might be, I’m feeling a bit fluttery in my chest area, you might feel a bit of nerves or something or a bit stressed tightness or it might be something in the tummy. Often for me, it’s in the tummy, or might be in your shoulders. And then I think it’s just being curious of what is that? And then taking that with you and seeing what comes up because I think we then get out of our heads and we get it we can tap into our intuition more. And I think our bodies have a lot to tell us.
And the same, if you do have a question you’re thinking about how to solve a challenge. Again, just getting out of your head, just thinking about what your intuition is saying, oh we always say don’t we, I’ve got this gut feel about something? Not a thought. It’s just a sort of gut feeling. So yeah, I think that can be I think nature just helps you do that.
Rachel: Yes, I can imagine just spending some time sitting with your intuition and your gut feeling. I think as well, there is that thing about getting out into a different environment. Because if I was to sit in my office here I know exactly what my office looks like. I know there’s a plant in the corner, a couple of posters on the wall and a big bookshelf. That isn’t going to give me much inspiration. But I guess if I’m walking around the lake near me, I see a swan taking off, for example. And I’m like, “Oh, that’s interesting.” And then it takes quite a bit of effort to get themselves off the lake and then suddenly, they’re flying and suddenly it’s completely effortless and you automatically start. Well, I do I’m not sure if I’m entirely normal. Going home that’s just like life, isn’t it? Some things are hard at the beginning and then it’s soaring. And what in my life is feeling like hard like that right now and what it’s feeling like, I’m actually soaring and it’s cruising. I mean, is this the sort of thing we’re talking about?
Henri: Definitely. And if I was on that walk, and I saw that’s one I might see it in a completely different way. I wouldn’t even notice it. But the fact that you notice it, and then you’re able to make some meaning out of what you’ve just witnessed can tell you a little bit about what’s going on for you. So I think when I coach people outside, and we definitely use the metaphors that nature kind of presents.
I had one, it was in October, and I was walking a lot, and it was really windy and it was raining and actually in my mind in the internal weather in my head was pretty stormy. I right felt like I was being buffeted by the wind, I just wasn’t in a particularly great headspace. So I was on this walk, and I saw this tree that was just swaying in the wind, and I looked at it, and I was kind of drawn to it. And what helped me do was just notice that actually, in all of that, kind of being blown around the place, and all of the chaos of that, there was something really strong. Its trunk was there, solid, grounded, rooted. And it really just helped me remind myself that even if my mind is a bit stormy and crazy, and I don’t feel in control, and all of those things, I can come back to grounding myself, and draw strength from within.
And I think that that can just be like a two-minute experience they can have that it’s just that reminder to kind of come out of your head. “Okay, I’ve got this.” And we do get blown about and the chaos sometimes I think with nature. The messiness of life, the chaos of life, is reflected in nature. Autumn, all the leaves coming down as all that chaos going on. But actually, that composting that decomposition it provides protection for animals, for nutrients to grow, for something great that happens at this time of year, when spring comes. I think there’s just lots of lessons from nature. And it’s just completely individual, you know, it just depends what’s going on that day, you might notice something that just gives me some new insight.
Rachel: I think the seasonality of nature is very, very powerful, because as professionals, particularly in high-stress jobs, you expect yourself to get to a certain level of perfect performance, and just carry on and carry on and carry on. And then if things start to take a dip, or things become hard, or we feel that things aren’t fruitful or productive, we can get really anxious and worried. But like you said, reminding yourself that with the seasons comes death, and then some period of hibernation and things developing underground that you can’t see. And then in spring, you get new shoots of new life, and then things are blooming in the summer. And then you go through the cycle again, that’s just it’s powerful to realise and remember that.
Henri: Exactly in autumn, I always think it’s interesting. It’s that sort of harvesting. What are the good things you’re going to take from spring and summer, what you’ve learned this year? And how can you kind of take those forward? I mean, I think there’s just a whole bit about rest as well with winter. We kind of force ourselves to—January, is a bit that I always find, well fascinating, because we’re all want to be like really energised and setting our goals for the year and having our New Year’s resolutions. Well, I didn’t feel like that in January.
Rachel: Not good from Christmas. Too much cake.
Henri: I kind of feel like I should be out there getting fit and healthy again. But I don’t want to and it’s not really you know, it’s not until the time begins to come out of this time of year that I begin to feel more energised. And so sometimes I think it’s about just respecting that a little bit. And, you know, being aware of it not beating ourselves up if we’re not feeling super, super energised.
Rachel: There’s also that sort of thing in autumn isn’t there that things need to be cut back, and you need to prune and they need to go in order to make space for the new stuff to come. Loads of stuff, loads of searching for what? What sort of other metaphors have you found that coaches that you’ve worked with? Obviously, not breaking confidence or anything but what are the sorts of things that people really tend to find meaning in?
Henri: It varies. I mean, there are sort of, there are things that I often, questions I might ask it in a coaching session where, what are you drawn to or what are you noticing? And there are some obvious things like a stepping stone that can often help us think about what steps do you want to take. Bridges, they’re quite interesting. What are you doing from and to? And I think the one that that really kind of stick there is a mirror, I think of trees so much. I’ve already mentioned that, that I did have one coaching session where the conversation was around fitting in a team and a place within the team. And actually, what was interesting while we weren’t actually in the same locations, so we were doing this in different locations on the phone.
But the area that I was in was kind of clearing, but there were all of these different trees around. And they were all different, but they were all, they all have their place. And I reflected that back to the client. And it really resonated with her because she really felt like actually she was finding her place. And it was different from other people, that, but it was there was a quality there. And I think that’s what nature brings, as well as that. It’s so diverse. We talk about diversity and inclusion so much, and nature’s the mirror: all of these different species and plants living together, doing their thing, complementing each other. And I think that provides a lesson, and nature doesn’t judge.
Does not judge, it just accepts and it keeps on growing. And then the other thing which springs to mind, which has nothing to do with the coaching session, but I was having a walk with my son at the weekend. And he said to me, being in nature, he said, it’s like Mother Nature just helps open your heart and just warms your heart.
Rachel: That’s a very emotionally intelligent little boy. Henri.
Henri: I know.
Rachel: Kids do genuinely like it when they get outside. And there might be a lot of whinging before they go but when they get outside, away from screens, etc, etc, something shifts, doesn’t it. And I think that is true for adults if we can keep ourselves away from our screens and like you said, always having to input into our stuff into our heads. And I was really bad for that until quite recently. And this, I probably shouldn’t be saying this on the podcast, because I want people to listen to this podcast, right? I always used to listen to a lot of podcasts, running, walking, whatever.
And now, I listen to far fewer, because, yeah, I have realised the value of silence and your own thoughts and processing. And I know that we get very little time to do that in our lives right now. And it’s much worse with smartphones, isn’t it because when I was at university, and I have said this before on the podcast, but if you went to the post office to post a letter, because we used to write letters in those days, and I didn’t have a mobile phone until I graduated. And you’re in the queue, you just stand there. You just— there wasn’t anything else you could probably look around. But just standing there, you’d be processing the previous conversations that you’d had, maybe thinking about a lecture you’d been to, things going on. And that processing time is really, really important.
It’s when our brains are in default mode network, where we’re starting to connect across hemispheres, we might not necessarily think that we’re being productive or thinking about anything in particular, but our brains are always at work connecting. And we need that switch off default time, as well as we need the focus time. But the default mode network is where we solve problems. And I guess you find that many of your coaching clients or even you and you’re just walking, you’ll suddenly just get the answer to something just out the blue,
Henri: Absolutely, it just comes. And I think when—it’s because we’re kind of relaxed, I think we’re more relaxed anyway, we might still feel a bit stressed. But I think nature instantly sort of calms. And I think when we’re in that relaxed space, that’s when the gold comes up and the ideas pop out. And they seem so sort of simple and obvious. I think it might just be something in something you see, that just broke something. And it’ll be totally different from what you would have thought about sitting at your desk or at your screen.
Rachel: There’s something about moving as well isn’t there that movement, we know, even just a small amount of movement. Even if you’re walking at two miles an hour, you still are creating new connections in your brain and you’ve got that sort of growth hormone, that hormone that’s produced when you’re moving.
Henri: I learned and actually that’s partly why I love coaching outdoors because coaching for me is all about movement. It’s about moving forward. And so yes, all the physical benefits of that. And then the opportunity to move forward on a particular challenge or an issue. And then there’s also the power of when you’re walking with someone, when you’re side by side with someone, I don’t know if you’ve liked this, I’ve certainly sat with friends and then more so even with coaching clients, that there’s something about being side by side that it makes it easier to talk about what’s really going on. Not just the kind of surface-level chitchat, but the actual kind of the deeper stuff, the more emotional things and I think being in that environment helps have those conversations there. And they’re the ones where we really connect with each other as friends or colleagues. And I think that’s a lovely opportunity too.
Rachel: And how do you find that people’s perspectives on stuff change by being outside as compared to sort of being in an office, being just sat around a table?
Henri: I think that’s kind of one of the biggest things about being in nature, is the perspective that it gives us. Because it changes our perspective, it makes us or it certainly makes me realise that we are part of something so much bigger than us — it’s out of our control. And we either agonise over little things in our day-to-day or things that are frustrating us. And then actually step out. “Am I going to be really thinking about this when I’m 90 years old, looking back on my life is this what I’m gonna think about.” I mean, I don’t know whether you experienced it. So I’m interested to know whether others feel it. But when I think back to great memories in my life, they all seem to be connected to the outdoors. And especially childhood, I seem to have this sort of picture in my mind that my childhood was literally outdoors the whole time, whether the weather was amazing back then, and it’s not now. Or whether it’s just the fact that being outdoors, stimulates something else in us
Rachel: I just think Henri, there was less to do in the 80s.
Rachel: Nothing on telly, I think you’re right, it is a real perspective shifter. And I remember if I’m, if I’m walking around outside, and there’s this little niggle that I’ve been worried about, it’s much easier, just to say ‘F it’. I mean, we hopped back to an episode, I think it was one of our very first episodes with John C. Parkin and all about the ‘F it’ books that he’s written, which is really all about our attachment to the outcomes of things. I guess, a more polite question to ask would be, what does it matter? What does it matter in if you’re outside, watching the birds and the trees, trees that have been there for hundreds of years, it’s like, you know, this isn’t gonna matter tomorrow, let alone in a week’s time, let alone in 20 years time or 100 years,
Henri: We spend a lot of our time trying to control everything. And I think nature helps us recognise that we are not in control at all. And that’s okay. Things are gonna change, things are going to evolve, things are unknown. And if we can stay grounded within them and think nature helps you do that. And then we’re enabled to stay calm and less stressed and to be more creative.
Rachel: That is so important, particularly for people that that listen to the podcast, because many people are stuck in hospitals in those offices, you know, seeing patients you can’t do that outside, so you’re gonna have to make time and make a bit of an effort sometimes because often if you’re living in a big city, it’s difficult to get out. Where would you particularly suggest that people went to get the most out of it? And what sort of nature are we talking about here?
Henri: Well, I think just getting outdoors full stop is a good thing wherever you are. There’s a book by somebody called Ruth Allen called Grounded and she talks about tiny green breaks, and that’s literally spending 5 to 10 minutes in a green space, whatever that might be or blue space near a river or an ocean. If you can to just get somewhere where there’s a little bit of nature. If you can’t if you’re in a really urban environment doesn’t matter there will be night there’s nature all around the birds flying in the sky. Just take a moment, get outside and breathe and see what you’ll see what you’re drawn to. There’s a, I can put it in the show notes. But there’s a website called Street Wisdom, which is a guy called David Pearl. He set up a little five-minute podcasts that you can listen to that just help you spend five minutes out in an urban environment and he talks you through. So it’s a little bit like a guided meditation for five minutes. Just help you kind of connect with your environment, wherever that is.
So even — and this is a bit strange, right —iIf you’re in your house all the time, and you really can’t get out and go for a walk, if you’re fortunate enough to have a garden, to just literally just take your shoes off, take your shoes and socks off and just stand on the grass for a minute. And just connect, that can be quite a grounding exercise to do. And if none of those things are available, even just listening to some birds out and there’s loads of stuff out there on the internet, or in my office. I’ve got some pictures of nature around and I literally just have to look at those. For me to just get a bit of perspective. Get back to my task.
Rachel: Wonderful advice on the Facebook group. Quite recently, I posted a YouTube video of some birdsong from an RSPB nature reserve. It’s beautiful. So we’ll put that in the show notes as well, for anyone who just wants to listen for two minutes. It’s very, very relaxing. So yeah, you’re right there. There are things that we can do and ways that we can do it. And that’s really helpful, that Street Wisdom. So I think sometimes people that are quite new to coaching or self coaching, maybe need a little bit of guidance. And that’s wonderful for the street wisdom thing. Also, in a few episodes ago with Dr. Claire Kaye, we did an episode about self coaching. And there’s a guided self coaching exercise that people could listen to as well. But really, it’s just sort of setting off for me, what top tips— if someone said, ‘Right, okay, I’ve been really inspired by this conversation with Henri, I’m gonna go for a 20 minute walk.’ And they were a bit novice at this, what would you advise them? What sort of advice would you say? Okay, what I suggest is do this.
Henri: So I think the first thing would be, as I said earlier, just to spend a minute or so just engaging your senses, to turn your phone off, go on your own if possible, if you can go on your own great. If you’ve got a dog that would be fine too. But if you can just get going on the road, take a moment to just check in with yourself. Maybe ask yourself what’s coming up for me today. And then, and then just actually don’t, don’t plan it too much. Just just start walking and see what you’re drawn to. That might be a particular path you take. You’re interested, just start walking around there. And then maybe ask yourself, ‘Why am I drawn to this?’ Or what is it about this, that that matters to me? What does this do for me? And how can it help me with any challenges that I have? I think the most important thing is to just actually don’t overthink it, don’t really think. Try that. Initially, don’t think too much about questions, just relax and just try to switch off your brain as much as you can. And just notice what’s around you. Notice the sounds that you’re hearing, notice the flowers, notice the buildings, notice the ground, and your connection to the ground. And just do that. And if it’s only a 5 or 10 minute thing, that’s fine, too. And I think as with all of these things that help our well being, so much of it is about habits and starting small. So I really think there’s value in just literally just taking a— trying to do it, you know, if you don’t do it at all, set a goal to do it once or twice in a week, for 5 or 10 minutes. Start small and build it up. And if you noticed that it helps you do it more than if it doesn’t let it go.
Rachel: I love that, I think so often, particularly us healthcare professionals and professionals that are very, very overstretched, overwhelmed. Any tiny break that we have, or anything we do like this week, we think it needs to be productive. It needs to be productive, I need to have an outcome at the end of it.
But what you’re saying is, you don’t need to achieve anything. And actually your brain will be working and connecting anyway, whether you feel like it’s achieving anything or not. So it’s worth just trying it and keeping it going for a few weeks. And I’m sure that people’s mental health will improve and things will feel a lot better.
Henri: Yeah. I mean, the World Health Organization, published a report. I think it was last year about the impact of green and blue spaces on mental health. I think they looked at over 134 studies around the benefits of being outside and it’s just really conclusive in terms of helping with the whole gamut in terms of mental health from just improving your mood on that day, to more serious conditions that people have. All of the evidence and research is out there. So it’s just about doing a little bit, not making it productive. Just go with it.
Rachel: And even if you haven’t got time to go on your own, if you’ve got, say, a meeting with someone, then even just making it a phone call and going for a walk while you do that phone call can be really helpful too, can’t it?
Henri: Definitely. In an ideal world, you could go on your own, and you turn everything off, and you’d really be able to connect, but also, we’ve got real life. So if it’s just about getting outside and moving. And still doing. That’s okay, too. It’s better than not doing that. So again, no judgement. But I would just invite everyone to, to get outside as much as possible. Even on a rainy day.
Rachel: In the rain? I guess the rain can teach you just as much as the sun. Probably more. Right?
Henri: Yeah. Yeah, I mean, I actually feel more invigorated. If I go out on a walk where I’ve been, I mean, I might not enjoy it so much at the time, let’s be honest here. But when I get home, I feel more invigorated if I’ve been kind of soaked. And I say yeah, being out there being out in the weather is great. It’s energising.
Rachel: So it’s really good to start small. And anything is better than nothing. I found that actually going away for you know, longer periods of time, either a couple of days, or even up to a week, somewhere completely different somewhere, where you are, feel where you do feel much closer to nature, say the mountains is one of my favourite things, but also in the UK, just in the woods and things like that. So I have really enjoyed a lot of the retreats that I’ve done in nature. And even if it’s not a retreat, even just going away with some friends and going for a long walk, things like that, if someone wanted to do something a bit longer, and use nature, is there any particular structures for that, that you would recommend or things that they could do on a bit of a longer stay away?
Henri: So I think on your own, there are lots of things you can do. You can go out for a weekend, or maybe go with friends as well. And just build in a bit of outdoors activity during that time. So long walks, a couple of hour walks. That’s just a really lovely reset, I think that you can do and then you got all the loveliness of being with friends and just relaxing and being in a different space. I think like you said, it’s really helpful to go somewhere different. So I love going to the sea and the mountains, and you can absolutely can do that in the UK without it being too difficult. There’s lots of good youth hostels out, there doesn’t have to be an expensive thing that you do. There’s lots of websites at the Ramblers Association with information about guided walks and routes that you can take. And then there’s more structured retreats, which I think there’s a little bit more focus around connecting with your mind and body and really kind of working through something. And actually, that’s something that we’ve been looking at as well, Rachel, so.
Rachel: Yeah, so we started talking about retreats a while ago with the podcast with Richard Pile about finding your purpose in life and been talking to Henri for a long time. So now, Henri just wanted to do this. So I’ve put out a call to see if anyone’s interested, let me know. And we have loads and loads of interests. So we’ve actually managed to book something in September in North Devon. It’s a luxury glamp site. And we’re hoping to put on a three day retreat where you can come along, connect with people, it’s going to be off air, off grid, and we’re going to go for walks, we’re going to sit around a fire, we’re going to have good food, we’re going to have lots of time for good conversations. And I think we’re going to have some guided walking where we think about specific questions that you give us, Henri, is that right?
Henri: Yeah, yeah, that’s right. So there’ll be a bit of purpose to the walks. And you know, people come with something that they just want a bit of creative thinking time to focus on whatever is important to them right now. But also, there’ll be some free time and just some chill time and just some different things that people can do.
Rachel: And there will be wild swimming in a hot tub, because for me any retreat has to include wild swimming in the hot tub. So if you’re interested, just click on the link in the show notes to find out more. We’d love to see that. But even if you can’t make it then, and places are filling up really, really quickly. We’ll do another one. But there are loads of different things, loads of different things organised. Not everybody can use glamp sites and get out. I know that there are lots of other things around. Do you just, have a look around and see what you want to do. And like Henri said, start small, go away with some friends and ask yourself some questions. Actually one retreat I did, every day they started up they had a load of cards which had different needs on them. We just all stood randomly, took one card that said what our need was for that day and for someone it was connection, for someone, it was a bit of empathy. Someone it was support, someone it was being energised, and that just let the group know what that person needed. And people were able to come alongside them and go, ‘Okay, well, what is it you need support with? And do you want to talk about it?’ And so immediately, the depth of conversation really, really increased. So if you are doing it with friends or a group of humans, obviously, you don’t want to be really weird. But there are questions you can ask each other, with permission, to go a little bit deeper than the usual conversations. Would you agree with that, Henri.
Henri: Yeah, yeah. I mean, not kind of turn up at your retreat with the coaching handbook in the back pocket, and, you know, kind of go through a list of questions. But I do think just being in nature just helps you have a slightly deeper conversation. So I think, you know, yeah, play with it, as well — have fun. You know, this is about bringing a bit of lightness into life. And, you know, reconnection and getting away from what can be quite serious, stressful, things that we have to deal with on a day to day basis. So yeah, like this.
Rachel: The great thing about retreat is you can sort of leave that stuff at the door when you get there. And you know, it’s gonna be there when you get, you know, spend a few days just not having to obsessively worry about it, actually, maybe looking at it from different angles, and then you can go back and pick up what you want, or leave what you don’t want when you go home. Yeah. If someone was wants to start getting out to nature, maybe thinking about some self coaching, solving a few problems, what three tips would you have for people who just want to get started?
Henri: Just start with getting out for five minutes. During the day, literally, or even if you can’t go for a walk, just five minutes, standing outside, listening, listening to nature, take a tiny green break as Ruth Allen would call it, and take 5, 10 minutes outside. Take a moment to just ground yourself. And notice your connection to the ground and then just see what it is that you want to think about. See what comes up.
Rachel: Lovely. That is really simple. And really great. All of us can do that. And I guess it’s just about being a little bit more intentional women do go even noticing when you’re when your mind is floating off to that problem there and whatever and bring it back to ‘Actually, that would be good to think about now.’
Henri: And I think, like I said at the beginning, you know, we do spend a lot of time in our head. So when we’re asking ourselves, you know, what do we want to think about? Maybe just go a bit further and ask yourself, ‘What am I feeling about this?’ Because our body will always have something to tell us. And it’s about tuning in. And listening to that.
Rachel: Yeah, because often we think we’re thinking one thing, our feelings that tell us something very different. So you go back into your feelings, and then question out, ‘So what is the reason I’m feeling that?’ Maybe this is the real issue deep down?
Henri: A lot of the time, it’s something a bit deeper that’s driving and emotional responsiveness. And it says just having that curiosity, that little bit of extra inquiry. ‘What’s going on for me now?’
Rachel: Oh, Henri, that’s been really helpful. Gosh, I’m very inspired to go for a walk now. So really looking forward to the retreat in September, and if people can’t make it in September, if it’s successful, then we will run more. I think that’s the plan, isn’t it, Henri?
Henri: Yeah, I have said that’s absolutely what you want to do. That would be brilliant.
Rachel: And Henri I know that you do outdoor coaching either face to face or on the phone with people. If people wanted to get hold of you. How could they do that?
Henri: They can do that through the show notes. I’ll put my contact. But also henristevenson.com, my website, and there’s a contact form on there. So yeah, please do get in touch. Even if you just want to have an initial chat. We can do a walk and talk to have a chat first and see where we go.
Rachel: Brilliant. Okay, well, thank you so much for being on. Let’s get you back on because there’s more stuff I know we need we need to talk about in there.
Henri: Yeah. Brilliant. Really looking forward to that.
Rachel: Thanks for listening. Don’t forget, we provide a self coaching CPD workbook for every episode. You can sign up for it via the link in the show notes. And if this episode was helpful, then please share it with a friend. Get in touch with any comments or suggestions at firstname.lastname@example.org. I love to hear from you. And finally, if you’re enjoying the podcast, please rate it and leave a review wherever you’re listening. It really helps. Bye for now.