Mindfulness in Nature
There are many books on how Mindfulness can improve your mental health from Kabat-Zinn to the Buddhist monk Shunryu Suzuki. You may even have heard of the Headspace or Calm apps that offer 10 minute guided meditations and teach you Mindfulness. It is by no means new but in our frantic, modern society, Mindfulness is very much needed. But what is it?
It is the ability to be zen in spite of everything. Mindfulness is being aware of our thoughts, feelings, body and surroundings in the present moment with the following principles.
The 7 Principles of Mindfulness
- No judgement – be kind.
- Patience – let life unfold at its own pace.
- Beginner’s mind – look at the world as a beginner, don’t skip ahead.
- Trust – trust your values and be true to yourself.
- Non-striving – you are enough, embrace who you are.
- Acceptance – see the world as it is, do not be misled by your biases
- Letting go – of resentment, anger, and past mistakes
The aim of mindfulness is to find inner peace and is often used to calm an anxious mind. Some say it might even be the key to a happy mind! Chiropractor and clinic director, Alex, finds practising Mindfulness allows him to live in the moment, so here is his guide to Mindfulness.
How To Practise Mindfulness
You might already be practising Mindfulness but didn’t realise it. It is the art of being present in this very moment. That means, focusing on the here and now and not dwelling on the past or fretting about the future.
Sometimes, the present can seem a bit boring, but that is when you must tune into your surroundings and realise there is so much more going on. Perhaps it is the sound of your neighbours chatting in the street, or the wind rustling the leaves. You might watch the clouds change shape or notice how something feels. You are seeing the world through your senses.
The next step is to allow your thoughts to pass by and let go of them without judgement or haste. Instead of going down the rabbit hole of negative thoughts, you are able to acknowledge them but let them float on past.
Come rain or shine, there are so many benefits to being outside in nature and there are fewer distractions than staying at home so why not try Mindfulness outdoors? Nature is particularly rewarding to the senses and green spaces and places by water have been shown to have a calming effect.
A Guided Meditation
Find yourself a quiet spot in nature. Stop. Feel the rain or the warmth of the sun on your skin. Hear the squelch of the mud or breathe in the baked earth smell of summer. Smile as you lift your face up into the drizzle or sunlight.
Perhaps sit still and listen to the birds and rustle of leaves as the squirrels race up and down the branches. Inhale the earthy smell of the fields or freshly mown grass in the park. Touch the thick, twisted bark of the trees and ivy vines, or run your hand over the damp moss. Breathe.
If you’re not sure how to act in nature, think of toddlers exploring the world, use your senses to guide you, not your thoughts. Let your body take over and give your mind a break.
The Ancient Art of Forest-Bathing
If you’re still not convinced, just look at the many studies conducted on the Japanese art of forest-bathing or shinrin-yoku. While researching this topic, I came across an article from the American Psychological Association that summarises the conclusions of a wide range of scientific studies on the benefits of nature which include:
- Reduced levels of stress and anxiety
- Improved cognition and memory
- Better mood self-regulation
- Lower likelihood of mood disorders
- Improved cooperation and patience
Alison Pritchard, PhD, ABPP, at the University of Derby in England, and colleagues found that people who feel more connected to nature have greater eudaimonic well-being—a type of contentment that goes beyond just feeling good and includes having meaningful purpose in life (Journal of Happiness Studies, online first publication, 2019).
That sounds great but what if you have a busy day at work or the kids are sick and you just can’t get out of the house? Not to worry, images and sounds of the forest or ocean have been shown to have many of the same benefits!
Whether it is Mindfulness, nature or nature sounds that you choose, we hope that you find some inner calm and achieve a meditative mind. For other calming practices, have a look at our blog on Diaphragmatic Breathing Technique, which has been shown to lower stress levels.