What can we learn from the humble squirrel?
There is a lot we can learn from the everyday cycles and natural rhythms of nature - especially when it comes to the curious creatures that we share our beautiful planet with.
One animal that immediately springs to mind is the humble squirrel - a creature with an absolute zest for life, play, survival and fun. It is the teensy tiny squirrel that, beyond all odds, is able to prepare exceptionally well to survive harsh and bitter winters, through its innate skills of diligent preparation and energy storage.
I do admire watching squirrels, especially when walking my dog in a luscious ever-green park or woodland. Although my dog may not be as interested in their unique qualities as he is in chasing after them, I love to watch them prance about the ground, scurrying up and through the tree tops, weaving through spindly branches, play fighting with their fellow companions and surreptitiously nibbling on their most prized nutty possessions.
Each time I see a squirrel, I can’t help but feel a smile glow around my rosy cheeks, as though I am glimpsing something exceptionally rare. Something which is likely to have a much deeper connection than I to the mysterious cycles of mother nature herself - and perhaps also knows more about her than many other creatures have dared to enquire about.
So what, if anything, can we learn from the humble squirrel, that we can perhaps relate to and even apply to our own lives?
Squirrels are masters of being able to have fun, play and bound through the trees without a care in the world. Play is in their natural essence, and teaches us not to always take life too seriously. Even though the squirrel will no doubt have several challenges to face in its life, from finding food, keeping warm and protecting itself against predators, this never stops it from going out and having fun.
Equally, it is important to feel free in our own spirits, and make time for having fun. Away from the unique and often burdensome responsibilities that many of us hold, there is always a way of finding time, stepping back and allowing our true playfulness to come out of hiding. It is so important to never forget that we will always have an inner child - eager to laugh and play whole heartedly.
Squirrels are rarely solitary creatures. Like us, they do sometimes require time to themselves, but they primarily thrive in the company of others. Not just for protection from predators, but to create bonds and relationships that will ensure they can play, develop relationships, procreate and work together to ensure survival. Similarly, although we live in a world that thrives off social connections in the online world, the squirrel teaches us not to underestimate the grand value of face to face communication.
Touch and hearing someone else tone of voice when speaking directly to them can have significant impacts on the neurotransmitters and hormones released in our brains and bodies (such as dopamine and oxytocin), which are vital to keeping us happy and healthy.
We know that loneliness is one of the biggest killers of the 21st century, while individuals with large followings on social media can still suffer from loneliness too. Take heed and make time fore real physical connections with others, whether this be reconnecting with family or a partner, or even making new friends who are likely to have similar values or interests as you.
No matter how cute and playful a squirrel may seem, this doesn’t mean that it isn’t immune from the odd dispute or kerfuffle with others. Whether this be play fighting or squabbles over trying to steal someone else's partner or nuts, squirrels too can get themselves into some pretty ugly fights.
However, their distinguishing feature in these situations is the squirrels ability to forget and move on - without holding a grudge. Squirrels allow themselves to communicate their full anger, but then draw on the resources needed to move onto better things. This is in stark contrast to much of our humanness, which often bears the brunt of not being able to let go of any wrongdoings from others, or forget arguments that happened long ago. I liken these situations to holding on to a lump of scorching hot coal, while watching the person or group you still hold a grudge or negative thoughts against. In the end, it is us that get hurt.
Whenever we feel like this, remember that we always have it within our power to forgive. No matter how harshly we’ve been hurt, forgiveness is one of the greatest healers. It doesn’t mean that you have to become best buddies or spend most of your time around others who may have previously hurt you physically or psychologically, but letting go of the hate or harsh feelings is one of the greatest liberators you can do in terms of setting yourself free to move on and live your life.
It might not be one of their most well noticeable features, but squirrels are avid communicators. When in a pair or a group, squirrels make it clear through sound and gestures about their intentions and feelings. Although this is not necessarily a complex language like us humans have, it is nevertheless a very advanced form of communication that aids in a squirrels social lives and ability to survive.
As humans, we can often forget or neglect our ability to communicate well. It is sometimes easy to want to push down our feelings, or become afraid of what will happen if we voice our true opinions. This stops us from being able to pursue multiple opportunities and, most important, prevents us from being our authentic selves.
Not communicating how we really feel, for example out of fear of being ashamed or negatively judged by others, we can develop a physical and psychological manifestation of stress and anxiety within our bodies - definitely not helpful in promoting our overall wellbeing. Suppressing our true feelings or making our thoughts and values known may even contribute to a weakened immune system!
With this in mind, we can take advice from the squirrels nature by aiming to take off the masks we wear each day, and make time for communicating how we really feel to others. What we communicate might not initially be well received, but if it is done tactfully and with positive intention, we will ultimately be helping everyone else to express their inner truth and also reach their full potential. Communicating our deeper feelings can also help in the process of forgiveness, as each party can understand the intentions and complexity of certain situations that may have led to the dispute being argued about or suppressed.
Squirrels have an incredible ability to trust - especially in nature. No matter how harsh the winter becomes, or how scarce resources become, they know innately that spring and summer will come once more. Unlike humans, squirrels don’t have a daily weather channel they can tap into to check when things will get brighter. And yet they trust and know that it will. Sometimes us humans can fall into the trap of negative rumination and believing that our own difficult situations will not get better. This ultimately leaves us disempowered to make change, because in many ways er have already set out the reality we ‘think’ we deserve or are only capable of.
A much more empowered mindset to develop, taking advice from the squirrel, is to take the dark and cold challenges of our lives, knowing that they are making us stronger. As we do so, we make space to believe and trust in a brighter future, which will inevitably make its way towards us. Just remember, prepare for the warmer and brighter times even when everything else feels Barron. Hope is one of the most important things we can hold onto as human beings, no matter how tough life gets.
Over-preparation is a bit of a double edged sword for the squirrel. In over-preparation mode, they continually salvage, gather and hide the nutty power houses of energy that will enable them to survive over winter. We humans also make preparations for our future, whether that be saving for a house, investing in our education or even setting up a pension. Preparation is key to survival, and yet it doesn’t always have the positive impacts we intended. This is because there is such a think as Over-preparation.
Over-preparation makes us live in fear, and dedicate too much of our time to that fear to the point that we neglect the present moment. From over-preparation, we can lose sight of how to enjoy life right now, fearing that we are never doing enough to secure our future happiness. But, since over-preparation can be an ongoing game, future happiness is rarely experienced because when the future arrives, another several preparation goals are being set.
The squirrel understands this too, because due to over-preparing in terms of how many nuts it hides, it actually is only able to salvage a mere 10% of them when it is time to eat! That means that it wasted, potentially, 90% of its time finding and hiding the nuts in the first place. Time that it could have spent enjoying and increasing the quality of its life. Instead, the squirrel could have placed more attention to remembering the 10% of the nuts it did hide. Similarly, instead of making too many preparations in our lives, we can have a balance of trusting in our future happiness and ability to survive.
On an interesting note though, even though it may seem that the squirrel is at loss for only managing to find 10% of its nuts, this has a great advantage to nature. This is because the 90% of nuts found go on to be germinated seeds, many of which are able to grow into huge trees that play a role in nourishing and nurturing many other different life forms. To me, this is a strong reminder that, no matter how ill fortunate our lives may currently seem, that there is a bigger ‘plan’ out there that we are a part of.
Although we may never get to see it, our own temporary ill fates may have a great advantage to other people and even nature in the long run. For example, I used to see my own journey into mental illness as a great waste of time that destroyed much of my early life, teenage and adult years. And yet, this experience definitely made me stronger as a person, enabled me to find out my true nature and eventually use my genuine understanding and compassion to help others who are going through a similar thing.
When I think about this, the squirrels own misfortune helps to remind me that we are all part of a much greater plan. we may not ever get to see the true impacts our own lives or actions have on others, but it is empowering to remember that sometimes our greatest downfalls and challenges are the things that eventually make us stronger and the world a greater place to thrive.
Overall, I feel really grateful to be able to share with you my own thoughts on the little squirrels we take for granted. If you take another look, just like many other things in nature, you will find many a great thing that you can relate to and even apply to your own life. All it takes is becoming a bit more humble ourselves, and realising that our species isn’t necessarily greater or better than another.
We can all learn from other beings, as ultimately we are all connected in mysteriously intricate web that needs us all to live in harmony and thrive to the best of the abilities (and downfalls) that nature played an integral part in lovingly creating.