Mindfulness and Nature

By Lea Kendall, Counsellor & Woodland Activity Leader

www.leakendall.com, www.woodlandclassroom.com

Have you ever headed out the door for a walk to give yourself time out from stress but ended up going over all your worries instead of enjoying nature? It’s very easy to still be plagued by worrying thoughts and concerns, rendering your experience less helpful than it could be. However, if we leave the house for a walk with the intention to be ‘mindful’ we are then able to transform the walk into a wonderfully healing and enlivening experience. By slowing down and paying attention to the natural world and ourselves in it, we move towards a practice that will greatly enhance our health and wellbeing.

“Mindfulness involves the skilful use of attention to both your inner and outer worlds” (Hanson & Mendius 2009)

As a Counsellor and Mindfulness in the Woods Practitioner, my world is all about using nature to stimulate positive mental health. Spending time in nature allows me to feel closer to my true self, to feel relaxed nourished and invigorated. I am in awe of the beauty and wonder around me. Nature holds my true calling and provides a space that feels like coming home.

Did you know that our eyes can perceive more shades of green than any other colour? It’s no coincidence that plants and trees contain essential nutrients and healing properties that our bodies need. Studies have also shown how cortisol levels, sympathetic nerve activity (your body’s reaction to stressful situations), blood pressure and heart rate are all reduced when we spend time in nature, it is also shown that we have an increase in immune functioning and creativity. Combining the practice of mindfulness and time in nature greatly enhances the overall effects.

I’d like to share with you 5 techniques to bring mindfulness into our walks in nature:

  • Take notice with all your senses.
    Listen to the sounds, feel the breeze on your face, notice any smells and touch things.

  • It’s about the journey, not the destination.
    Take regular breaks along your walk to stop and notice things, explore an area off the path, watch running water or sit for a while to take in the view.

  • Leave your watch, phone and agenda at home.
    Give yourself permission to just be. Allow yourself to have no timetable, no agenda and no distraction. Being present with yourself and the natural world can be wonderfully restorative, you may be more productive as a result.

  • One breath meditation.
    Take a moment to stop in a place with a beautiful view and take one deep, meaningful breath, focus on that breath all the way in and all the way out.

  • Study a plant.
    Really look at a flower or leaf, give it your full attention and notice as much as you can about it.

Victoria Lee