Tao of Inner Peace Newsletter

Diane Dreher

Seasonal Newsletter: Spring 2024

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The Season of Spring: The Light of Appreciation

My father grew up on a Kentucky farm but found his dream in the skies. Becoming an Air Force pilot, he flew cargo planes, air rescue helicopters, and jets. When he retired from the Air Force, he became a flight instructor. My favorite times were when he’d take me up in his Cessna 172 to explore the skies together, soaring over the Southern California coast and the sparkling blue Pacific Ocean. 

One morning, I looked up in disappointment at the gray stratus clouds, thinking our flight would be cancelled. But my father reassured me that we could still fly that day. We headed out to the airport and took off. When the plane broke through the cloud layer, the sky was suddenly clear and blue. My father smiled. “The sun is always there,” he said. “Sometimes when we’re too close to the ground, we can’t see it.”

We can also forget that the sun is still there in our lives if our vision is clouded by stress and everyday routine. Yet now, as the season of spring brings new life to our world, we can bring greater light to our lives by appreciating the beauty of nature.   

Appreciation can help us focus on moments of beauty around us that we often take for granted. Psychologist Dan Baker, PhD, considers appreciation the “fundamental happiness tool.” He says that when we appreciate the beauty in our lives, we transcend our normal world and enter “a state of grace.”[1]

The appreciation of beauty and excellence is one of twenty-four character strengths common to humankind. When we open our hearts in appreciation, we can feel greater joy, meaning, and connection with life. Research has found that appreciation can help relieve stress, reduce inflammation, strengthen our emotional balance, and bring us greater hope. [2]

The beauty of nature has brought people joy and inspiration for centuries. Medieval saints Hildegard of Bingen, Bonaventura, and Francis of Assisi found inspiration in nature. And nature has inspired poets from Wordsworth and Emerson to contemporary poet Mary Oliver whose verses are filled with joy, wonder, and oneness with the natural world. 

Today, research has shown that connecting with nature can bring us greater peace of mind and heal us on many levels. Research has found that simply being in nature and noticing it in a process the Japanese call “Shinrin Yoku” or “forest bathing” can help relieve stress, anxiety and depression, activate our immune systems, and renew our peace of mind.[3] And it doesn’t take long. Walking around in a forest for fifteen minutes, and spending another fifteen minutes breathing in the beauty of nature can produce these effects.

But we don’t even need to go into a forest to connect with the healing power of nature. Research in a Philadelphia hospital found that abdominal surgery patients with a view of trees outside their windows recovered sooner than patients with the same surgery whose rooms looked out at only bare brick walls. These patients all had the same surgery, the same doctors, nurses, and hospital food. But the patients with the view of trees suffered fewer complications, needed less pain medication, and were discharged sooner than the others.[4] The sole difference was their ability to appreciate the trees outside and experience the renewing power of nature.

Sometimes appreciation of nature can lead to awe, a deep emotional or spiritual connection to a power beyond ourselves. We can feel awe in response to a radiant sunset, a majestic redwood tree, and new signs of life in spring. Psychologist Dacher Keltner, PhD, has found that awe can bring us feelings of deep, transcendent joy and inspire us to become more curious, creative, and open to the wonders of life.[5]

Years ago, Renaissance poets and philosophers encouraged people to meditate on nature, discovering vital symbols and lessons for our lives. As Shakespeare wrote in As You Like It, we can find “books in the running brooks, sermons in stones, and good in everything.” [6] These days, I’m discovering lessons in my garden.

When I pull weeds, I realize the need to simplify my life. I also find unexpected inspiration. The lone California poppy growing through a crack in our driveway shines as a symbol of perseverance and hope.

In this season of spring, I invite you to find more ways to appreciate nature, to bring the light of greater hope and possibility into your life.


1. Baker, D. & Stauth, C. (2003). What Happy People Know. Kutztown, PA: Rodale Press. Discussion and quote on page 81.

2. Peterson, C. & Seligman, M. E. P. (2004). Character Strengths and Virtues. New York, NY: Oxford University Press. Discussion on pages 537-538;Adler, M. G., & Fagley, N.S. (2005). Appreciation: Individual differences in finding value and meaning as a unique predictor of subjective well-being. Journal of Personality, 73 (1), 79-113; Childre, D. & Martin, H. with Beech, D. (1999). The HeartMath Solution. New York, NY: HarperCollins; Diessner, R., Solom, R. C., Frost, N. K., & Parsons, L. (2008). Engagement with beauty: Appreciating natural, artistic, and moral beauty. Journal of Personality, 142 (3), 303-329; Stellar, J. E., John-Henderson, N., Anderson, C.L., Gordon, A. M., McNeill, G. D., & Keltner, D. (2015). Positive affect and markers of inflammation: Discrete positive emotions predict lower levels of inflammatory cytokines. Emotion, 15 (2), 129.

3. Park, B.J., Tsunetsugu, Y., Kasetani, T., Kagawa, T., & Miyazaki, Y. (2010). The physiological effects of shinrin-yoku (taking in the forest atmosphere or forest bathing): Evidence from field experiments in 24 forests across Japan. Environmental Health and Preventive Medicine, 15, 18-26. Ulrich, R. S.,Simons,R. F., Losito, B. D., Fiorito, E., Miles, M.A., 7 Zelson, M. (1991). Stress recovery during exposure to natural and urban environments. Journal of Environmental Psychology, 11, 2-10-230.

4. Ulrich, R. S. et al. (1984). View through a window may influence recovery from surgery. Science, 224, 420-421.

5. Adler, M. G., & Fagley, N.S. (2005). Appreciation: Individual differences in finding value and meaning as a unique predictor of subjective well-being. Journal of Personality, 73 (1), 79-113; Fagley, N.S. (2016). The Construct of Appreciation. In D. Carr (Ed.). Perspectives on Gratitude: An Interdisciplinary Approach, pp 70-84. Oxford UK: Routledge; Keltner, D. (2023). Awe: The New Science of Everyday Wonder and How It Can Transform Your Life. New York, NY: Penguin Press.

 6. See Dreher, D. (Inner Gardening: Four Seasons of Cultivating the Soil and Spirit. New York: HarperCollins, 2001; Shakespeare, W. (1997). As You Like It, Act 2, Scene 1, lines 16-17. In S. Greenblatt (Ed.). The Norton Shakespeare. New York, NY: W. W. Norton & Company. Originally written c. 1599, published in 1623.

My Latest Podcasts

I’ve been doing lots of podcasts lately on positive psychology and my new audiobook edition of The Tao of Inner Peace.


Michelle Chappel, Your True Calling podcast with Diane Dreher, the Power of Seeing Your Own Greatness.

Posted November 2, 2024. Recorded April 26, 2023.

Exploring the Art of Tao. Interview with Maia Skye Reika. Seeking the Light of a Thousand Suns.  https://youtu.be/1gCZ_Wbvr_k Posted November 11, 2023.

Find Peace from Internal and External Turbulence. Interview with Dr. Doug on Inspire Vision. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yk88G0uotJs Posted January 30, 2024

I look forward to more thought-provoking conversations in the days to come and wish you joy and light in this new season.

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About Diane

I am a best-selling author, researcher, and positive psychology coach. My books include The Tao of Inner PeaceThe Tao of Personal LeadershipThe Tao of WomanhoodInner Gardening: A Seasonal Path to Inner Peace, and Your Personal Renaissance: 12 Steps to Finding Your Life’s True Calling.

My coaching uses the latest research in positive psychology, mindful listening, powerful questions, and other creative techniques to help people like you overcome roadblocks, achieve your goals, and discover greater joy and meaning in life.  MORE
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Are you looking for the light of greater possibility this season? I’m offering two free positive psychology coaching sessions to the first person who contacts me at this link.

I am an Professional Certified Coach (PCC) and a member of the International Coaching Federation (ICF) a leading global organization dedicated to advancing the coaching profession by setting high standards, providing independent certification and building a worldwide network of trained coaching professionals. 
I am also a Certified MentorCoach (CMC) with the internationally recognized coach training community MentorCoach LLC.
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Diane Dreher, PhD, PCC, CMC
Diane Dreher Coaching & Consulting, LLC
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