How to Use Nature to Practice Self-Acceptance

How to Use Nature to Practice Self-Acceptance


When self-judging thoughts arise, a healthy way to deal with them is to immerse ourselves in nature. Learn how nature can provide deep healing when self-love is challenging.

Few of us are immune from the malady of self-criticism. Too readily we admit to not being good enough: not intelligent, fit, healthy, creative, or affluent enough. Comparisons to a neighbor, colleague, friend, or family member expose evidence of our supposed lack. This unhelpful habit can propel us down a slope into despondency and self-loathing.

How to Redirect Self-Loathing Thoughts (Naturally)

A healthier option is to redirect such judgmental thoughts. An easy way to do so is by going outside. Take a walk. Sit beneath a tree. Listen to the hoot of a barred owl. Feel the wind against your skin. Maneuver the uneven surface of dirt underfoot.

Outdoor activity activates the senses, which deepens bodily engagement. The sensual rhythms, sights, sounds, and textures of the outdoors nurtures us and awakens our somatic awareness, which offsets and quiets judgmental thoughts. This sensibility, at the heart of ecotherapy, recognizes the vitalizing benefits of outdoor activities that reinforce our connection to nature.

A primary feature of nature is its participation in the ecosystem. Honeybees, raccoons, woodpeckers, sandy or loamy dirt, streams, oceans, and air all partake in the continual dance of life. All respond to DNA, microbiomes, climate, and a complexity of other factors below and above ground. At work also is a life-giving principle known as entelechy, which guides the function and encoded development of various organisms. It explains an acorn becoming an oak tree, or a sound-sensitive girl becoming a concert violinist: innate potential actualized.

Nature’s Lesson: The Power of Unconditional Acceptance

Nature is a great teacher. Among its lessons is an unconditional acceptance of What Is. A leaf unfurls in spring and browns in autumn. River levels rise and fall. Soil can be rich in nutrients, or contain them in uneven supply. The climate crisis is disrupting the current ecosystem as it adjusts to a much-altered balance, yet nature—although with great losses—continues despite dramatic changes.

The power of unconditional acceptance allows us to acknowledge facts, sensations, emotions, and thoughts without dispute. Acknowledging What Is encourages us to recognize phenomena and information that are both within and beyond our control, regardless whether we interpret the circumstance as good or bad.

Unconditional acceptance reinforces that we be present with mind, body, and spirit. Instead of wasting energy wishing conditions were otherwise, we acknowledge what is taking place. When fearful, we feel our racing heart. When the belly aches, we feel the pressure against the intestines. When someone compliments or challenges us, we notice how we push away or welcome their words. If a storm approaches, we seek shelter. As we face the reality of ice in the Arctic melting, we look to change our behavior.

The Positive Impact of Self-Acceptance

Acceptance does not leave us off the hook for responsibility, nor does it give us permission to be complacent. It is, however, liberating. Acceptance frees up energy previously mired by discomfort and denial. Acceptance provides relief. It allows us to be our continually changing self. It motivates us to become an even better version of ourselves and fulfill our potential. It spurs us to take necessary steps and apply our abilities toward improvement and change.

Self-acceptance is a powerful remedy. Practicing it allows life force to flow. Self-acceptance can:

  • Anchor us in the present moment and allow us to embrace the diversity of life.

  • Allow change to occur more easily.

  • Abbreviate and lessen pain and suffering.

  • Connect us to our body, to others, and to the environment.

  • Empower us.

  • Increase compassion, appreciation, and gratitude.

  • Open the mind.

  • Increase problem-solving skills and creativity.

  • Encourage healing and growth.

  • Value and respect the totality of who we are.

How to Practice Self-Acceptance Through Time in Nature

Start by going outside. Indulge in a scent, sound, sight, or touch. What attracts your attention? Witness the movement of a leaf or the beam of sunlight through branches; see how a dandelion pushes through a crevice or how a beetle navigates a patch of dirt. Listen to the trill of peepers. Look for both common and unusual patterns. Sense what is taking place with your body.

Look and be curious. Collect information. Follow your stream of thoughts. Watch sensation and emotion appear, dissipate, and assume new form. Notice any discomfort, but don’t attach to it. Be kind if judgmental thoughts arise. Notice them as you would a tree or cloud. How does what you’re witnessing externally correlate to something within you?

Life is flow; change is constant. The self continually shifts—from sleepy to awake, from hungry to full, from inspired to exhausted, from a narrow focus to a broadened one, from young to older. Self-acceptance aligns us with the current of our being and allows the many manifestations of our innate nature to emerge. It gives us the choice to adjust and improve as needed. More than anything, it permits us to settle into the wonder of this moment with all its rich detail.

Learn how nature poetry can strengthen spiritual practice.

How to Use Nature to Practice Self Acceptance

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