Relieve Stress in Nature: Tips for Practicing Mindfulness Outdoors
As the weather gets nicer, we find ourselves spending more time outdoors. Spending time in nature can benefit our mental health, relieving stress and anxiety, improving our overall mood and boosts feelings of happiness and wellbeing. If you have noticed yourself feeling down lately, feeling locked up from the winter time, isolated from COVID, now is the time to step outside! When I find myself feeling overwhelmed or just needing a break, getting outside and spending time in nature has helped me clear my own mind.
One technique that can be helpful is practicing mindfulness in nature. What is mindfulness you may wonder? Mindfulness is any activity which helps us feel and exist in the present moment. It asks us to pay attention to our breathing, surroundings and our internal state without judgment. By paying attention to the present, it gives us a break from worrying about the future or the past. It allows our bodies and minds to calm down. “Mindfulness means paying attention, in a particular way, on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally (Jon Kabat-Zinn).” A mindfulness nature walk is a great way to connect with the earth. Try taking a walk in a place that inspires you. While on your walk, find a place to rest for a while. Take a moment to ground yourself. Move through your senses; sight, sound, taste, touch and smell. Notice the stillness and silence within nature. If writing is something you enjoy doing, try bringing a journal with and write about your experience, or what you notice around you.
Here is a list of other outdoor mindfulness activities...
Gardening. Whether you prefer plants, or vegetables, your own backyard, or a community lot, get your hands dirty!
Mindful Breathing https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TXNECaIJPDI
Mindful Body Scan. One practice of mindfulness activity you can try is a mindful body scan. Here you will practice your breathwork by either sitting, standing or laying down on your back, in the grass, hammock, or any other relaxing place outside. Place one hand on your heart and the other on your belly. Simply notice, feel, and become aware of your breath and your body. Starting from the bottom of your body, bring your awareness to your toes, and take a breath in and out. Work your way up the body, engaging in a cycle of breaths as you mindfully scan each part of your body, working from your feet to your head. You can do this for as long as you would like, or start out with one minute, if this is a new practice for you. Doing this often will help cultivate a deeper connection to your body and mind.
Go Barefoot in the Yard
Read Outside. Grab that book you’ve been meaning to read. Find a quiet spot outside and dive in!
Have a Picnic with Mindful Eating. When was the last time you truly paid attention to what you were eating? Really allowed yourself to savor your experience with your meal? We often eat on autopilot, distracted by our phones, TV or other tasks. Mindful eating allows us to slow down, remove distractions, notice the flavors, the aromas, the sights, sounds, and the textures of our foods. It allows us to reconnect with our senses. Mindful eating allows us to be present with our meals.
Nature Scavenger Hunt. Go out and explore. What do you see?
Whatever it is that you do, allow yourself to be fully present. Let go of your worries, to-do’s or any other things that may be on your mind in that moment. Allowing yourself this time will help you find peace, reducing feelings of depression and anxiety and overall calmness in your day.
Blog post by Kelly Powell, LCPC of Green Door Therapy.