Many of us are aware that being in nature is good for us, yet we still find it hard to take the time to prioritise green space and fresh air. Then often, even if we do get outside, we’re too caught up in our thoughts and worries to simply be present and soak it all in. This is where mindfulness comes in to help us appreciate the moments we’re spending in the great outdoors so that we can really begin to reap the benefits of being in the natural world. But what does ‘mindfulness in nature’ mean and how can we bring more of it into our lives? Read on to find out!
What Is Mindfulness?
Mindfulness is a practice – that can turn into a state of being – in which one is conscious of the present moment and the actions they are taking at that time. This can be a way to both calm your inner chatter and stress as well as being totally present and connected to everything around you.
The practice of mindfulness can be applied to absolutely anything, from doing the washing up or spreading butter on your toast, to walking, gardening or colouring in.
How Can I Be Mindful In Nature?
Being mindful in nature is a way of taking the practice of mindfulness and applying it to moments you spend outside, be that looking at flowers and plants, taking a walk in the countryside or swimming in the ocean.
It means taking a slow approach to life, stopping to fully sink into the moment, listening to the sounds around you, feeling the sensations of air or water on your skin or the ground beneath your feet, and breathing in the aromas of the natural world. Rather than using nature as a backdrop for exercise or ‘getting something done’, instead, try to take time to go outside with the sole purpose of being mindful.
When you start out with mindfulness in nature, you may want to use prompts from already established practices such as Forest Bathing which asks you to be still, focusing on one location or sensation at a time, noticing changes from one moment to the next. It also asks what you can see, hear and smell around you, or what different textures feel like on different body parts. It is this very stillness that allows you to appreciate things that you might otherwise miss, such as a lizard on a tree, a camouflaged crab scuttling to and fro around its hole, or the scent of a minuscule flower that lies amid a larger cacophony of colour. These prompts are useful in bringing us back to the moment when our minds have wandered and can give us new ideas of what to look or listen out for.
What Are The Benefits Of Mindfulness In Nature?
Mindfulness in nature has a whole host of benefits from reducing stress and anxiety due to connecting to your parasympathetic nervous system to improving memory, increasing levels of self-esteem and overall improved emotional wellbeing.
In a study by the University of Derby, “the number of people reporting their health as “excellent” increased by 30%” after taking part in the 30 Days Wild programme in which people spent time outdoors feeding birds and planting flowers. Spending time in nature is also thought to help reduce hypertension, improve your mood, reduce mental fatigue and can also have a positive effect on the respiratory tract and cardiovascular illnesses.
In addition, being truly mindful in nature allows us to experience a greater understanding of our connection to the natural world, which not only helps us increase our levels of compassion and care but also brings meaning and significance to our place in the world.
According to “The influence of urban green environments on stress relief measures” by the Finnish Forest Research Institute, just 15 minutes spent sitting outside in a park or forest helped people feel ‘psychologically restored’ and 45 minutes spent sitting and walking in nature helped increase vitality and creativity.
Examples Of Mindfulness In Nature To Practice
If you want to practice mindfulness in nature but aren’t sure where to start, have a look at some of our favourite examples of being mindful in nature below:
- Notice the plethora of hues and textures when sitting in the forest
- Find a space with dappled sunlight and look at the ever-changing colours that hit the surfaces of trees or leaves around you
- Next time you’re by the ocean, lie on your back near the shore with your ears under the water and listen to the ripple of sand and pebbles as they vacillate back and forth with the movement of the waves
- If you’re on a beach with thick, rough sand, take time to pick up a handful of grains and admire the sheer variety of shells, sand and stones cradled in the palm of your hand
- When staring at a river or waterfall, witness the power and uniqueness of the flow, appreciating that each movement is both beautiful and ephemeral
- Listen intently to the crackling sound of ice breaking and melting on a cold winter’s day or feel and hear the crunch of snow beneath your feet
- Lie back on the ground and meditate on the feeling of being held by our wonderful Mother Earth
Of course, there are hundreds of different ways in which you can be mindful in nature but hopefully, these examples give you somewhere to start. You can also try one of our mindfulness retreats this year. We’d love to hear your ideas in the comments below!
Next time you’re feeling stressed or overwhelmed, remember that nature is your friend and it’s there to support you. Take just 10 minutes out of your day to seek out a spot in nature and breathe in the scents and sounds around you. Allow yourself to unwind, focus on the moment and appreciate the beauty and ever-changing nature of nature. As with autumn leaves on the tree or a wave on the ocean, this too shall pass.