Breaking Bad Habits

We are all victims of our own addictions. Our bad habits control our lives in varying amounts. Detrimental habits can range from simple things like laziness or obsession with the cell phone, to more serious addictions of alcohol, tobacco or hard drugs. Here is an interesting story from the forests of New Zealand that offers tips from nature on overcoming addictions and bad habits.

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Photo by Bernard Spragg.

NEW ZEALAND

New Zealand has an estimated 80,000 species of native plants and animals, of which less than half have been named and many are found nowhere else in the world.

It is also home to indigenous people named the Māori who arrived in New Zealand in several waves of canoe voyages at some time between 1250 and 1300 CE (AD). Early Māori formed tribal groups, based on eastern Polynesian social customs and organisation. Horticulture flourished using plants they introduced, and later a prominent warrior culture emerged.

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Photo by: Bernard Spragg. https://www.flickr.com/photos/volvob12b

GATHERING OF SUSTENANCE FOR LIFE

Brendon Pirihi from Whakatohea Social and Health Services shares some insights from his work.

“I work with mental health and addictions in young people for my Iwi (Maori tribe in New Zealand). One thing that I always do with every participant is get them out into nature as I believe that our world has an abundance of natural healing resources i.e our forests, lakes, rivers and oceans. A lot of the time I don’t even need to say anything to the people I take as you can see in their faces that the world around them has an immediate affect on what we call their Wairua(spirit).”

The program is called ‘Te hahao o te oranga’, which is a Maori name. When loosely translated it means the gathering of sustenance for life. We take the youth to gather seafood on the first day and then they stay in a traditional marae for the first night. (marae = Maori village). Then on day two we take them to the native bush/forest and they will build a shelter for the second night and we hunt for rabbits, wild pigs and deer and return home on day three and the youth will share what meat was caught with their elders.

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Black Robin pic by Frances Schmechel

*Note: Pigs, rabbits and deer are not native to our country. They are a threat to the local species of plants, birds and animals which are found nowhere else in the world.

During our time in the bush we also teach them rongoa (traditional medicine from plants) which is knowledge that needs to be passed on before it is lost. That is just part of what we try to do here in New Zealand. The more we use our wilderness the less likely we are to lose it. Here in whakatohea we are lucky to have the native bush on our back doorstep protected by the government as they declared it a national park many years ago.

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Photo by Christopher Chan https://www.flickr.com/photos/chanc/5342770352/

3 WAYS NATURE HELPS

Replacing negative with positive: Nature is addictive too, but in a good way. Half of one’s in energy is spent in fighting the urge to give in, to the negative habit. Will-power can vary with time. It may be strong to begin with but the more you resist, the stronger your urge becomes. Instead of trying to fight your way through, nature provides a much better way. Replace your negative habit with the habit of spending time outdoors. It’s a healthier option for your body and your mind.

Make life challenging: One of the challenges of being in nature can be the lack of access to distractions, diversions and addictions. No wifi, no signal, no pizza joints, no bars. Well it’s not a fail-safe option, but worth a shot if you are serious about overcoming your addictions. Simply putting our habit out of reach gives us time to explore living without it. One can experience the difference that makes. It gives us mental strength and a stronger resolve.

Understand yourself: Spending time in nature helps you to have a clear conversation with yourself. Most of our addictions stem from a void in our life that we try to fill with our addiction. Every time the feeling of emptiness returns, one tries to take the support of an external substance – it could be a cigarette or a drink or even Whatsapp or Facebook. Nature helps us in knowing ourselves better. It can help us find the source of our addictions and give creative insights to break out of patterns and detrimental habits.

When you know how to connect with nature, there is no going back. It is a unique experience. A feeling of coming home. Of finding a true friend. Of knowing yourself.

We recognize that an essential element for a person’s holistic well being is the concept of Oranga, the state of well being that exists simultaneously in the spiritual, physical and psychological dimensions.

To know more about their work visit their website at this link.

Watch this short film by Nathan Kaso to get a glimpse of New Zealand’s addictive landscapes.

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END NOTE: We know breaking bad habits is easier said than done. However a lot of people have successfully overcome their fixations. Do add your thoughts, reflections and stories in the comment box. It will help us learn from each other. Please share this article with those who may find it of use.

If you haven’t already, you can subscribe to our monthly blog posts here. We are a small group of friends trying to help people reconnect with nature. To know more about us and join us as a fellow volunteer visit this link.

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Photo by Cat Burton https://www.flickr.com/photos/catburton