Author: Jason Stout
“No matter how long the winter, spring is sure to follow.” - Proverb
I love Spring. It’s the season of new beginnings and transformation. New buds bloom and the air turns sweet, leaving behind the shorter days and longer nights of winter. Gradually, the silent winter mornings fill with the sound of birds chirping. I can’t help but follow suit. My winter habit of a sluggish morning exit from bed turns into a race to get out and about.
There is something about nature in bloom that feeds one’s soul. Mental health researchers have linked exposure to nature to a number of psychological and physical benefits, including enhanced attention, decreased levels of stress, and improved moods. Empathy and a sense of cooperation have also been correlated with spending time in nature. Whether it is sitting on a back porch, taking a walk, going on a hike, or opening windows to let in the light and natural views, research bears out that nature improves our overall well-being.
Just as Spring is a time of new beginnings and transformation for nature, it also provides an opportunity for us to allow new beginnings into our lives. One of my favorite yearly rituals in the Spring is spending time at one of the small rivers a short drive away. I love rivers in the Spring because they come alive. The stagnant, icy debris that accumulated over winter is swept away by a flood of snowmelt. Not only can I see it and hear it, but I can feel the energy and excitement of the river.
After exploring for a bit, I will find a peaceful place to sit and reflect about where I’ve been, and where I am going. I grab sticks nearby, allowing each one to symbolize something that is not working for me, that I want to let go of or leave behind. Just as spring leaves behind the winter, I breathe deep and ceremoniously throw one stick at a time into the river to let go of the things that are not working for me – things like self-doubt, guilt, fear, or anything that seems to be holding me back. I, then, search for and grab rocks that symbolize what I would like to keep or things I would like to let into my life - maybe things like friendships, family, optimism, exercise, kindness, or forgiveness. I tuck them away into my pocket and keep them as a reminder to lean into the things I would like to keep and the ways I would like to be transformed.
Maybe you live close to water, or maybe you do not. Either way, connecting with nature is the best way to connect with yourself. You may use a variation of the ritual that I have created or do your own letting go ceremony. My hope for all of us, though, is that we will let nature into our lives this Spring. Just spending time outdoors and witnessing this amazing time of year can help us feel better. It is good medicine.
Jason Stout - TAPS Youth Programs Advisor
Jason's life work has been helping youth and adults find inner strength, form meaningful connections, and experience personal transformation through physical and emotional challenges. Before the age of fifteen, Jason experienced the death of his sister, grandmother, and father. In honor of their memory, Jason created a national wilderness program for at-risk and grieving teens, which has been featured in Backpacker Magazine and the Denver Post. He has continued to foster connection and healing for almost two decades, by incorporating his life-long love of nature and fitness with helping others find that same purpose.