Mindfulness and Nature
Mindfulness and Nature
How often would you say you are mindful? Do you know what being mindful involves, how to do it or what it actually means?
In a society where many of us are often busy with work, commitments, and daily errands finding time to be mindful, or give the idea any thought, can be a struggle. Slowing things down and taking time to properly relax is quite the rarity for a lot of people. Our minds may feel full, busy or noisy perhaps even to the point where you find it hard to switch off and often find your mind is feels foggy and exhausted. This is why finding or scheduling time, although difficult, to slow down is so important for our mental and physical wellbeing.
Mindfulness may often be confused with other types of meditation, which can prove to be much more difficult and require more time and effort. However, mindfulness is simply about bringing your attention to the present moment, the environment around you and how that makes you feel. You could simplify it to letting your senses lead your train of thought.
Mindfulness has been proven to have many benefits to a wide variety of people including those who struggle with mental health issues and illnesses, learning and cognitive disabilities and physical ailments such as chronic pain. Multiple studies have found mindfulness to help relieve symptoms of anxiety and depression, increase emotional regulation, soothe symptom of chronic stress, I prove cognitive functions such as memory as well as improve one’s physical health.
For a long time the relationship between spending time outdoors in nature and overall wellbeing has been studied. Over a century ago the importance of fresh air and time spent outdoors was discovered to be an essential tool in child development. Recently the proven benefits of spending time in nature, to support our mental health has become increasing talked about. Research has shown that those who spend more time I nature and more time well connected with nature tend to report being happier and experiencing a better sense of self-worth and purpose. This goes to shows how mindfulness and nature is a pair that goes hand in hand.
So now you might be wondering, how do I start practicing being more mindful and how can being in and connected to nature help me to do that?
Start by stepping outdoors and exploring your local area, get to know what’s around you. Nature is essentially everywhere but require a closer look to find it. If you are lucky enough to live in Jersey you likely have an abundance of beautiful and accessible spaces fairly close by. Many of us live very close to either the beach and the sea or diverse green landscapes; take advantage of this and use it as much as you can. For some however, finding a diverse, clean and natural space may be difficult. In some areas high quality natural landscapes are hard to come by and may not be fully accessible to everyone. Try doing a little research into what is within your proximity you may be surprised at what you find and might have to be a little creative to begin with.
Then pick one of your favourite current spots or a new place you would like to go. You can choose to go alone or with a friend, walk, sit quietly or bring some food and have a picnic. When you’re ready look around and list what you see; plants, animals, water, trees and plants. Try looking a little closer than usual, what things can you find that you may regularly miss. Listen out for what sounds you can hear. Anything new or interesting? Perhaps listen for the wind in the trees, birds calling, the crunch of rocks or sand under foot or the crashing of waves as they wash up on the shore. Take a deep breath in and smell the air. Focus on what all the different smells of that area and which you like the most. It could be the smell of the sea, the flowers or the damp earthy smell woodland seems to have. If you feel comfortable maybe pick a few things up like rocks, shells, leaves and sticks. See how they feel and look, taking time to observe them more closely. Try your best not to place your attention on day to day or anxious thought that may pop up, don’t worry if they do pop up that’s completely normal, simply bring your attention back to your environment.
There is no one way to do mindfulness, young and old everybody can benefit from time spent enjoying and noticing the things around us. Even a short period of a few minutes every now and then spending quality time in nature can be of great benefit to a person’s wellbeing. Longer periods of time spent outdoors such as longer walks, reading or talking to a friend outside are also perfectly good ways of increasing time spent outdoors connecting with our environment. Whatever you feel you can manage is the right way to go about it. Be creative and find new and interesting ways to be mindful when you’re outdoors, it can be as simple as you want to make it.