Mental Health Matters: Nic Goddard

NO F30 Nic Goddard byline pic
Nic Goddard

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Back at the end of January I wrote about having signed up for a 28-day sit spot challenge for February.

A forest bathing exercise run by Darach Croft was offering guided invitations and gentle
reminders to find a place to sit outside and engage fully with all my senses with nature around me.

So how did I get on? February is the shortest month of the year but thanks to poor weather, limited daylight and cold temperatures it can often feel like it has more than 28 days in it.

It was a busy month for me with work and family commitments and even finding just half an hour to sit and switch off everything from my thoughts to my mobile phone definitely posed a challenge.

On my first day I attempted to sit in my chosen spot but after just 10 minutes realised I had chosen poorly. So I picked up my cushion and set off in search of a different spot.

This time I selected a space under an ancient oak tree. With a lovely sense of poetry it is a spot I can see from my usual seat on the sofa in my house – so I could see my own indoors echo from my sit spot and imagine myself in my sit spot when I am inside.

The invitations were diverse and thought provoking. Sometimes suggesting I collect an item from nature such as a leaf, twig or acorn and fully experience it with all my senses, other times prompting me to draw a map of my sit spot, then a sound map of the area noting the noises I could hear.

I sat in sunshine, in pouring rain, in high winds, gentle breezes and I sat in the snow.
I watched the sun rise from my sit spot and the sun set (one with a large mug of tea, the other with an even larger mug of mulled wine).

I saw a fox, heard an owl, watched buzzards and eagles soar. I witnessed the start of the birds’ spring chorus and the posturing and pairing up of songbirds. A kestrel flew past me one morning, almost close enough to touch.

NO F14 sit spot 03
NO F14 sit spot 03

I held, smelled and tasted the nature around me, I leaned my back against the old oak tree I sat beneath and pondered on it’s age and stories. I noted the colours and textures around me, I gazed up at the sky and down at the ground.

I made ephemeral art from gathered lichens and mosses. I watched shadows lengthen and darkness fall. I often came inside and looked up facts or found the answers to nature-related questions which had occurred to me as I sat.

It was not always easy to leave the world behind and step outside of my life to sit. Sometimes I managed a whole half an hour with just the odd intrusive thought of an email to reply to or an item to add to a shopping list.

Other times I lost track of time completely, or found myself transported back to childhood memories or long lost conversations around nature and the flora
and fauna around me. I began a journal, noting the times of sunrise and sunset, the weather and the moon phase.

NO F14 sit spot 01
NO F14 sit spot 01

I completed the sit spot throughout all 28 days of February and into March. Perhaps the greatest gift though was the connection with others. My teenage daughter also did the sit spot challenge, selecting a place to sit near the river. She spends hours every day outside but is usually walking, collecting litter or purposefully striding along.

She told me: ‘It was a really different way of being outside to just sit. I felt connected to the space in a very different way to usual. I noticed things I would not usually see or hear.’

Hugh Asher, who ran the sit spot challenge, told me: ‘I was really pleased with the way that the challenge went. We had more than 250 people sign up to take part, mostly from Scotland, but a few people from across the world including the US, Canada, Turkey, Australia, and Germany.

‘We had people from rural areas where access to nature and green spaces was quite easy, but also a good number of people from urban areas who were able to find places where they could connect with nature.’