The chirping of birds, the metamorphic wonder of butterflies, a nature encounter in your own yard. Kristen Perret, Ph.D., recently gave a presentation about the mental health benefits of a bay-friendly yard during a Save The Great South Bay webinar.
Perret is a clinical psychologist, specializing in children, adolescents, emerging adults and families. She teaches and supervises at St. John's University and is in private practice in Westbury, N.Y. She specializes in treating mood disorders, disordered eating, stress management, ADHD, borderline personality disorder, and non-suicidal self-injurious behaviors. She believes in bringing peace, joy and serenity from our own backyards.
According to Perret, the first step is understanding our bodies and stressors; then, developing a relationship and connection to nature by looking right outside our windows and into our own backyards.
“It doesn’t matter if you have a small or large plot—nature is inherent in our bodies,” she said. “We are not a visitor in the woods, we are part of nature. It exists within us, as we exist within it.”
Nature, she explained, lowers anxiety, enhances feelings of fulfillment, and increases happiness through pro-social and pro-nature behaviors.
“When you say, ‘I just need a breath of fresh air,’” she said, “you’re right. You really do need a breath of fresh air.”
However, she suggests not allowing it to escalate to that point and catching the issue sooner in smaller ways, by gaining the healing effects of nature and practicing mindfulness through meditation.
Sit on the grass and experience nature with intention observations and no judgement. She said to detach from your thoughts and connect to nature. To practice, start in your backyard and pick an object, a flower, tree, or listen to a bird sing. Breathe in tandem with nature and watch the movement of the breeze.
“Walk your property with curiosity,” she said, mentioning that you might notice something. “Observe without criticism.”