To continue celebrating Mental Health Awareness Week by Mental Health Foundation, we will show you how you can immerse yourself in nature even more by utilising one of the other five ways to wellbeing: being mindful. You’ll learn two techniques that can be used when exploring nature in Hertfordshire, and we will set you another challenge to help you start using them.
Earlier in the week we discussed why nature helps your physical and emotional wellbeing. In tomorrow’s post, we will explain the specific positive physical and mental health benefits that you’ll gain from walking in green spaces.
For today’s post, as a continuation to the celebrate Mental Health Awareness Week by Mental Health Foundation, we will show you how you can immerse yourself in nature even more, by ,utilising one of the other five ways to wellbeing: being mindful. You’ll learn two techniques that can be used when exploring nature in Hertfordshire, and we will set you another challenge to help you start using them.
What does mindfulness and being in the moment mean?
The Oxford English dictionary defines mindfulness as: “a mental state achieved by focusing one's awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one's feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations, used as a therapeutic technique”.
Mindfulness is a moment of self-awareness. Mindfulness means knowing directly what is going on inside and outside ourselves, moment by moment.
Why is mindfulness important?
- Reduces stress
- Improves self-awareness, self-esteem and relationships with others
- Increases attention and work performance
- Higher success in reaching goals
- Helps you feel more in control of your behaviours
In addition, there is some evidence to support that those who meditate have reduced blood pressure, visit their GP less often and have fewer hospital admissions.
But don't just take our word for this, you can read how being mindful whilst retreating to the woods helps one of our students in their Blog!
The reason the pandemic has driven people to return to nature is because: “Having a close relationship with nature has been put forth as a basic human psychological need that must be satisfied to experience complete wellbeing.” (Baxter & Pelletier, 2019; Hurly & Walker, 2019). Baxter et al continue to state: “Engaging with nature through meaningful moments is more important for wellbeing than simply spending time in the natural environment.” By using mindfulness techniques you’re more likely to take in your surroundings, and thus more likely to engage with nature and reap the benefits that nature has to offer.
Our Mindfulness for everyday living course and in the moment seminar can teach you more about the importance of mindfulness as well as give easy to remember techniques to help you practice.
How can you be more mindful whilst enjoying nature?
Below are two exercises that can be used whilst walking. These can be done anywhere, at any time, for however long you like. For more techniques, join our Mindfulness and in the moment courses and seminars.
- Walk at a natural place and place your hands wherever comfortable.
- With each step, pay attention to the lifting and falling of your foot. Intentionally notice placing your heel down first and then your toes.
- If something captures your attention or your mind wanders, simply bring your consciousness back to your feet and continue the exercise safely
- Whilst walking (or stop for a moment if easier) and expand your attention to notice smells. Is there freshly cut grass? Animals nearby? Can you smell the forest? If you’re in an urban area, can you smell baked goods for example? Don’t push yourself to feel anything about what you smell, just simply acknowledge that you smell something.
- Now shift your attention to sounds. What can you hear? Birds? Cars? Whatever it is you hear, don’t label it or think about whether it is a sound you like, just simply listen.
- Continue to expand your awareness to sight, picking out colours and objects. The next technique can help you achieve this.
- Bring your attention back to walking and repeat the process again
Whilst walking at a normal pace, expand your consciousness to notice the things around you. One technique to help you do this includes choosing a specific colour to look out for. For example, if you pick the colour red, look around where you are and make a mental note of every item that you see in the colour red. In urban areas, it could be a mailbox, a car, a sign, a pram, someone’s jumper. In the countryside or woods, you may spot birds, leaves, tree trunks, animals or other people displaying the colour red.
Alternatively, you can focus on looking out for specific items. For example on your walk to work, you may wish to count the number of times you spot a hairdressers or, in the woods, you can pay attention to the sounds of the birds and try to spot, and recognise them. For those who like to learn about trees, you can also learn to spot specific species.
Why not try some of the techniques you have learned today? Alternatively, for more techniques or help with learning the art of mindfulness, you could join our mindfulness for everyday life course or in the moment seminar.
We are offering students the opportunity to submit nature pictures that made them feel ‘in the moment’. Did you notice a swan on your canal walk? Recently discovered a field of bluebells? Locked eye contact with an animal on your way home? Whatever it was that made you feel in awe, inspired you or spotted whilst being in the moment – we’d love to hear about it, and we’re sure other students would too! Send your pictures or story to firstname.lastname@example.org
Baxter, D. E., & Pelletier, L. G. (2019). Is nature relatedness a basic human psychological need? A critical examination of the extent literature. Canadian Psychology / Psychologie canadienne, 60, 21- 34. https://doi.org/10.1037/cap0000145
Richardson, M., Passmore, H, A., Lumber, R., Thomas, R., & Hunt, A. (2021). Moments, not minutes: The nature-wellbeing relationship. International Journal of Wellbeing, 11(1), 8-33. https://doi.org/10.5502/ijw.v11i1.1267