Saturday, February 24, 2024

Spring into Growth

by Therese Daniels, LPC, CNIT (Certified Nature Informed Therapist)

We have been conditioned by society to set new goals in January, the start of a new year. Start fresh, stop doing this, start doing that, get to the gym. While in theory this may seem like a good idea, it goes against our roots, against Mother Nature. Bears hibernate, trees, plants, and vegetables delay growth. Nature rests in the Winter and maybe we should too. 

Spring is the season of planting and growing. Many people lose motivation pretty quickly for those goals they set at the start of January. An article in Time magazine states that as many as 80% of people fail to keep their resolutions by February and only 8% of people stick with them the entire year. But think about how you feel in the Spring. When that first sunny day hits, the temperature is above 55 degrees (which feels hot because our bodies have adapted to the cold) and you want to rip off those socks and break out the flip flops and let your toes breathe and soak up the sunshine! Motivation for goals is more likely to stick at this time of year because that is what is natural. This is when we plant seeds for flowers and food to bloom later in the season. The animals wake up and are rested and energized for new things to come. Colors come back! This is a reason why setting new goals in the Spring vs. the Winter is something to be considered.

Goal setting and comfort zones

As a Certified Nature Informed Therapist, I have been able to encourage people to use the many benefits of nature to help them in goal setting and in getting comfortable with the uncomfortable. Some of the greatest things in life involve a certain level of feeling uneasy. Meeting new people, starting a new job, moving to a different home, exercising, parenting, even love has a level of discomfort. If we ran from all of these things, what would happen? Not much. Growth mindset is a term that has become popular over the past several years. The general meaning of the term is that you thrive on challenge and don’t see failures as a setback, but a way to make shifts to continue to move forward and set new goals. To keep going, to grow. 

Last Spring, I was working with someone who had pretty severe performance anxiety and he had a big martial arts challenge coming up. We took our sessions to the trails and more importantly, to the creek. There is a swing that hangs under a large bridge that runs over the creek. My client showed a lot of interest in getting to the swing but was afraid to do so. There were steep and muddy hills with tree roots and branches and wet leaves along the way. And once you got down to the water’s edge you still had to enter the water and navigate slippery rocks to get to the middle of the creek where the swing hung. It took some time, but by the summer, he was swinging on that swing and feeling so proud. Each week we got closer and closer, and he felt more and more brave. Throughout our sessions, I was able to use our experience in nature and transfer it to his fear of performing in front of others. He realized he could do things that felt scary and have success. A week after he went swinging, he took his martial arts test and passed with flying colors! 

I believe we can find a balance between allowing ourselves the time to rest and prepare while also believing in ourselves enough to face challenges and to get back up when we fall down. Look to nature to and follow its course. Going back to our roots and what is innately in us and around us can help us spring into growth! 

Therese M. Daniels, MA, LPC, is a Certified Nature-Informed Therapist who has been in the mental health field over 20 years. She provides individual, couples, and family counseling for children, teens, and adults. She offers regular nature walks and creates nature retreats to introduce the power of nature to support healing and wellness. She specializes in supporting people with anxiety, depression, self-esteem struggles, life transitions, and more.