For the last 8 weeks I have been able to include heading out to exercise in the morning for every day except Sundays. It is becoming a real streak and I am now more inclined to just automatically get up and prepare to run than offer up the excuses to not get out of bed as I used to do. My usual track is around the streets in my neighbourhood, where I am guaranteed relative anonymity at 6:30am. Not many others are out and about at that time.
For the first few days of this week I woke in a different suburb than usual because I was at a conference for a few days. This suburb is a beach side one and I was quite excited to head out on my run along the path next to rolling waves and the shore. The weather was so mild and lovely it was a delight to be in the fresh air. It was also a well-lit path which is helpful in the pre-dawn darkness, although that brought about a situation that caused me great anxiety.
Due to the beauty of the surroundings the popularity of the path I took turned out to be quite high. There were over 100 people that I ran past or that ran past me. Everyone was quite polite and respectful – that was not the problem. What I became obsessed with was the fact that of all the runners this first morning, I was larger in physical size than any other. All I could think about was what everyone else on the track must think of me being out in my running gear. It grew with each person that I saw and the voice inside my head that was offering these taunts kept increasing in intensity as the run continued.
This phenomenon, where you believe that others are greatly noticing you and your behaviour, is called the spotlight effect, literally because you can feel that you are constantly in the shining light to be fully visible to all and sundry. It is an exaggeration of your importance in the world of others and it can be a fleeting experience or develop into crippling anxiety. For me, it is the former that I can usually talk myself out of and get a more accurate picture of the state of affairs.
I was fortunate this week with the fact that by running by the sea the sound of the crashing waves was able to drown out this inner voice from time to time otherwise I am not sure I would have been able to continue. The ocean is a noise that I love to listen to as it brings me to a point of mindfulness and relaxation. On this occasion it served to pull me back to reality rather than the altered reality I had found myself in.
There is such a restorative impact of nature. Many times over it brings me to a place of equilibrium when life seems unbalanced – my feet in the sand or the sea or the grass and my face to the sun or the breeze on my skin. The bible tells me that when I look to the natural world I can learn more about truth, and truth about the Creator. In the Old Testament book of Job chapter 12 verses 7 & 8 says, “But ask the animals, and they will teach you, or the birds in the sky, and they will tell you; or speak to the earth, and it will teach you, or let the fish in the sea inform you.”
I am grateful for the impact of the sound of nature that helped give me a perspective that enabled me to function more truthfully and to continue with my efforts to live a healthier life. I hope that next time you find the inner voice starting to drown out reality you are able to find the opportunity to spend some time in nature and hear God’s truth.