A captivating story on overcoming depression in the arms of Nature, and her transformative power comes from Ina Stojić, as a part of reclaiming well-being mental health talks series. What led to such ground-shaking events in her life is likely familiar to many of us, with or without depression. And while serious damage can occur when we refuse to address the source of our problems, magical things can just as easily happen if we choose to embrace our inner voice and act from our heart. A journey on which Nature has proven to be the most attentive guide of all.
Spending time in Nature, especially in the forest is lately seen as preventative medicine, famous as ˝forest therapy˝. Research by Choron Song, Harumi Ikei, and Yoshyfumi Miyazaki, in 2016. reports increased mental wellness, boosted immune systems, and reduced stress levels, heart rate and blood rates related to nature therapy, emphasizing that ˝ it will play an increasingly important role in preventive medicine in the future˝.
For me, it were morning walks that made the difference, a commitment to daily stroll in the nearby forest, to which I owe my sanity and serenity. Hope you can relate, and if not, let Ina`s story be a seed you plant with an intention to heal with Nature. Ina (@ina_nature_) is a yoga and meditation instructor and a practitioner of traditional Thai massage, whom I came across on Instagram, where her focus is very much around Nature. There is an aura of zen around here that drew me in her orbit, where I gladly dwell soaking up the goodness she transmits. Her compassionate nature, tender spirit and supportive energy are a balm in the online space powerful enough to transfer the benefits to everyday life. In her work, she focuses on a holistic approach and on healing the individual through a return to the knowledge and wisdom of nature.
I blamed myself
˝When Tanja asked me if I wanted to write about my experience of how being in nature can be beneficial for mental health and thus participating in her wonderful initiative, I immediately fired, “Yes!”
Mental health is a topic that cries out for attention and media space like never before, so why do we talk about it so quietly and rarely, I thought as I sat down to write this text. That is why I was happy with Tanja’s idea and the opportunity to talk honestly about important things. Let us dare to see that we are not alone and that only with our hearts open can we untie the knots of stigma and stereotypes about mental health. So let’s take turns.
Sometime in 2011, a wave of life blew me to thousand parts. I broke off the relationship with my then partner, and soon after that my job ˝asked´ for the same. Every day I was bitten by a river of anxious thoughts that by retirement I would be overwhelmed with papers, surrounded by grey buildings, and locked in an office from nine to five. I woke up in the mornings with chest pains, blaming myself for being ungrateful because I still work while others don’t even have that opportunity. I blamed myself for being confused and still don’t know what I want out of life. I suppressed the emotions of sadness and anger, burying them far away, to the edges of dullness. I didn’t even let the tears breathe, I felt ashamed. Because how do you admit that after years of studying, investing effort and time, expectations of your own, family and social, maybe that’s not it? How do you allow the thought that maybe you don’t want to be ˝just˝ a lawyer after all? How do I look myself in the eye and say out loud what’s screaming inside, that the job I’m doing is something I never really wanted?
When we choose not to listen to ourselves for too long, a sincere messenger will appear – our body. So my body started transmitting messages that I ignored. There were frequent sore throats because I did not dare to tell my truth. Then inflammation on the ovaries as I slammed the doors to unpleasant emotions, while my stomach boiled with a rush of frustration for fear of deciding to change. The body screamed in every way, and my response was condemnation because I felt it had let me down. And in the end, there was nothing left but her knock on the door. The one`s I had always feared, whose very name carried darkness and weight – depression.
Little things began to draw my attention
She decided to stay with me for about a year. She stole a smile and left the short-lived, fake one, just for work, for about 8 hours a day. After that she would shine in her full splendour, drawing the curtains on the windows to have me all to herself. To hear her voice clearly in silence: “you’re not worthy”, “you’re miserable”, “nothing makes sense”. The only prudent thing left with me in those moments was prayer. And the thought “go outside, go to nature” ran through my mind. After almost a year, I went outside, although distrustfully and hopelessly.
I started walking along the embankment after work, which eventually lead to walks to work. And I started running. I liked the fresh air as much as the fatigue because he gradually stole time from crying on the couch. I took yoga classes, thinking I might as well try. I started riding a bike, so I would drive around Jarun and Bundek lakes for hours. I would stop more and more often on the embankment to catch the sunset and admire the reflection of Zagreb in the river Sava. I got up earlier to embrace the scent of dew and the taste of peace before the city woke up on another day.
Little things began to draw my attention, those that had a way of elegantly silencing my thoughts … the rustling of grass under my feet, playful notes of wind in the canopy, birds … I love watching birds, always a little envious of the ease with which they soar so far and so freely. There were times when I felt like a child seeing a tree or a flower for the first time. So I began to take pictures. To make sure that what I am witnessing is real and truly so beautiful. In time, some inexplicable joy began to inhabit the dark room of my mind. For a long time, I was afraid to believe that I deserved it, but she kept coming back to me, knocking and calling me out.
I flocked to nature at every opportunity. I also started diving and had the opportunity to get to know the beauties and treasures of the underwater world. Diving brought me closer to the sanctity of the breath. To hear your breathing in the endless blue, to witness the fragility of inhaling and exhaling, is something magical. Water taught me softness, strength and awe.
I wanted to give a chance to the curiosity
Still, the forest remained my first love. Walks through the woods brought me home as if I were returning to Mother’s arms. The forest spoke the language of love. Every tree, root, and canopy shared their wisdom. Her depths and mysticism provided an opportunity to touch the depths of myself as well. The forgotten and repressed ones. The forest taught me to silence my shame and allow myself to hear my own voice. She taught me not only to listen but also to love. So I started practising listening and loving myself. And as I listened to my voice I quit my job. I wanted to give a chance to the curiosity of doing something else besides working as a lawyer, although, at that time, I didn’t know what. So I listened and listened again, and began to have faith in what I was hearing.
I finished a yoga teacher school, moved to Ireland and soon started teaching yoga classes in one studio. The return to Croatia was pushed by a pandemic, but since I don’t believe in coincidence, I went to Nature for answers. I found my forest and she blessed me again … With the strength and courage to follow the voice of the heart, and thus new opportunities, wonderful people gathered and a yoga group was formed.
What is so special about the forest? I am missing words for the end, so I will quote the wonderful Jane Goodall:
It was in the forest that I found “the peace that passeth all understanding.”
Ina Stojić (@ina_nature_) is a yoga and meditation instructor and a practitioner of traditional Thai massage. In her work, she focuses on a holistic approach and on healing the individual through a return to the knowledge and wisdom of nature. She also operates within the Association ROMB @udruga_romb with the aim of increasing the quality of life and lifelong learning of children, youth and adults through the preservation of resources, cultural heritage and the development of a sustainable future through balanced local and international cooperation.