One thing I think a lot of us forget is that we are all part of nature. I think it’s so easy to forget how connected we are to the natural environment and how important that is for our wellbeing.
So many studies have shown the link between nature and wellbeing. Our health is intimately interlinked with the health of the rest of the natural world. I remember a study that really stood out for me from when I did my first degree in Psychology. They had some people in hospital with similar illnesses, and one group were given a view from a window with some greenery and scenes of nature, and another group were given a more urban view of buildings. The ones with the view of nature got better quicker.
Life can be so simple. The mind just makes it more complicated. So the message is clear. Get out in nature and your wellbeing will be improved.
I also read another study several years ago that showed that people in a nursing home that were given a plant to care for, lived longer.
So get outside, go for a walk in your lunch break. Just 20 minutes in nature each day has huge health benefits.
Do you find that when you are outside it is easier to be mindful? Could you sit at the beach and just stare at the waves for hours? Or listen and watch a crackling fire all night? Do you feel a sense of belonging when out in nature, with nothing else to do and nowhere to go?
In the early days the old monks never used to sit inside on cushions to meditate. They would often be found outside meditating on a log or sat on the grass, immersed in nature and their natural surroundings.
Nature is always in the here and now. It can teach us how to be more present.
When outside we can open up to our senses and move away from the thinking mind, allowing us to develop our mindfulness practice.
It’s good to have a sense of wonder about nature too. When you look up at the stars in the sky, can you imagine if the stars only came out once every 10 years? How much more special that might make your experience. Or imagine that when looking up at those stars, you were actually looking down on them. See if you can bring this sense of wonder and aliveness to your moments of mindfulness.
Try this for a simple mindfulness exercise adapted from Claire Thompson:
Find a quiet place outside and sit or lie on the ground or find something like a log, bench or blanket to lie on.
Become aware of the earth beneath you.
Close your eyes and become aware of your breath.
Relax your body and allow it to sink.
Feel the contact between your body and the ground.
Let go of any thoughts, and just connect with what is here to experience.
If the sun is out, feel the warmth it provides.
Breath in any scents around you.
Bring your awareness to the air on your face.
Hear the sounds of nature.
Dwell in the moment.
Bring to mind a sense of gratitude for your connection to nature.