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Morning sun, humming birds and gratitude: how nature helps bring everything into focus for Anna Shafer and Sarah Wright Olsen

Anna Shafer and Sarah Wright Olsen are co-founders of bāeo, an online plant-based skincare line with organic ingredients, formulated to clean, moisturise and protect delicate skins of all ages. This LA-based power duo bonded through motherhood and a desire to make natural, ethical products. Sarah is mum to Esme, Wyatt and Winter, while Anna’s little ones are Lila, Jaylen and Grace. We asked them both to tell us about the importance of nature in their lives:

What’s your favorite thing to do in nature?

Anna: My kids love hikes, especially my four year old. We walk. We play. We find twigs and plants and flowers along the way. It’s a way for us to unwind and just be. We often will have a picnic along the way under some trees. And of course we love our beach days. Weekend mornings we go looking for shells at the crack of dawn because my kids are super early risers. It’s always a great way to start the day. 

Sarah: Every weekend we go to the ocean. We spend Saturday and Sunday with our toes in the sand. Even in the winter when the water is freezing we love to be there. The tides are low and we play in the tide pools with the kids. An evening beach walk or a morning swim is an essential part of our dream day. 

Describe your connection to nature: what positives does it bring to your life?

Anna: I’ve always had a deep connection to nature. I grew up on my grandma's small farm [in rural Russia]. She grew all her vegetables and fruits herself, and to this day it's my favourite childhood memory: eating everything straight from the trees and the ground. I feel my most present, relaxed self when I’m in the woods surrounded by trees. Even just being in my backyard watching the hummingbirds in our strawberry trees brings me such calm. 

Sarah: I feel the most grounded, relaxed and in tune with my family when we are doing something in nature: a hike, swimming in the ocean, walking to the beach, or playing in the garden. It’s as if our senses are heightened and everything comes into focus. It also makes me feel calm. The sun on my face or a walk with the family relaxes us all. I grew up playing on a farm and spending my days outside in Kentucky. When I’m in places with miles of rolling hills, open spaces, forests, or water I feel at my happiest and most at home. 

What are your fondest memories of spending time in nature?

Anna: One of my favorite memories as an adult is a trip to Africa. We stayed in tents in the middle of nowhere in the Masai Mara. On the first night I had a cheetah come to my tent and circle it for maybe an hour. Longest hour of my life! But that experience is something I think of all the time. It was life changing for me, seeing all the animals, being away from the busyness of my life, and just truly being present in every moment. I will never forget the sun rises and the sunsets and all the incredible animal encounters we had. 

Sarah: One of my favourite trips as a family was when we went to this village in the Cascade Mountains. We stayed in a tiny room and we were outside the majority of every single day. The mama deer in the forest knew the safest place for their babies was the playground in the tiny village school, so the little fawns would sleep while our kids learned how to swing. We would take walks to the creek, hike to see waterfalls and spend our evenings sitting outside watching the deer eat clovers. We had no electronics and no connection to the outside world. All that existed for those seven days were the people in the village and the magic of our little family. The connection we felt was so deep and beautiful.

Many of us are time-poor and might not get out into nature as much as we’d like. Any suggestions for a quick nature-based pick-me up? Something sensory, experiential…? 

Anna: So I’ve been doing direct sun exposure every morning as early as I possibly can and I swear by it. This is not my idea. I listen to a podcast called the Huberman Lab [hosted by Dr Andrew D. Huberman] and here I quote him:

"The simple behavior that I do believe everybody should adopt … is to view, ideally sunlight, for 2–10 minutes every morning upon waking. So, when you get up in the morning, you really want to get bright light into your eyes because it does two things. First of all, it triggers the timed release of cortisol, a healthy level of cortisol, into your system, which acts as a wake-up signal and will promote wakefulness and the ability to focus throughout the day. It also starts a timer for the onset of melatonin."

I started doing this a few months ago and I literally feel happier throughout the day and sleep so much better. I encourage everyone I know to try it. 

Sarah: Take 10 minutes in the morning and/or evening. Walk outside and face the sun. Allow yourself to take some breaths and list the things you are grateful for in your head. Allow yourself this moment to take in the morning or find gratitude in the day. You will see a difference in your day ahead and in your sleep.

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