Spending time in nature has brought a sense of stillness to me over the last few years. This caught me off guard because I’m not someone who you’d typically describe as the “outdoorsy type.”
I would think of the outdoors and imagine every unfortunate animal-related scenario possible. Imagine my surprise when I discovered I actually love spending time in nature.
I noticed how relaxed and engaged I become in what I’m doing. These are the moments where I’m paying attention to how the flowers smell instead of my to-do list.
It turns out spending time in nature has some serious benefits. Keep reading to learn more about what it means to be mindful, the benefits of being mindful in nature, and how to practice mindfulness in the great outdoors.
What it means to be mindful
To be mindful is to notice what’s happening without judgment, a simple concept that can be challenging to practice. But practicing mindfulness is worth the effort.
Research by the Langer Mindfulness Institute indicates that being mindful can positively improve your memory and your approach to problem-solving.
It’s easy for your mind to drift to the errands you need to run or an earlier conversation you had. When your mind drifts, and it probably will, notice it judgment-free and bring yourself back to the moment.
I enjoy practicing mindfulness outdoors because it lets me notice all the beauty nature offers.
Benefits of being mindful in nature
Not only is there a neurological change in my brain, but a physical body change happens for me when I’m in the moment, mainly when I’m outdoors. My ears begin to drop from my shoulders. The surroundings engage my senses, and I find myself breathing deeper.
Spending time outside can improve your stress levels by reducing your body’s cortisol (also known as the stress hormone). Mindfulness better equips you to deal with even some of the most challenging moments, and studies have shown being in nature can positively affect your mental well-being.
Whether you have access to a hiking trail or a park, here are some ways to practice being mindful in nature.
Tips for being mindful in nature
Put your device away
It’s easier to notice what’s happening without notifications pulling you out of the moment. Try putting your phone on silent and swapping your earbuds for the sounds around you.
If you want to capture a moment, take a photo and put your phone back away. Resist the urge to try and get the perfect picture for the ‘gram.
Engage your senses
Take a moment and engage your senses to notice the nature around you. Make a mental note of what you hear, smell, feel, or see.
When you’re being mindful while outside, you might notice the sound of the trees rustling or the way the leaves dance in the wind. Maybe you notice the birds chirping.
How does the ground feel beneath you with each movement? How does your body feel in the sun or shade? Engage your senses to explore and actively notice the little things.
Ditch the judgment
Remember that being mindful is a practice that takes, well, practice. If you feel guilty for indulging in the beauty around you instead of something you “should be doing,” take a deep breath and bring yourself back to the present moment without judgment.
We tend to put things in either “good” or “bad” boxes, relive the past, or anticipate the future. Remember that things are neither good nor bad; they just are, and we can’t change the past nor control the future.
The bottom line: I’ve been practicing mindfulness for over 10 years, and though I’m sometimes pulled out of the moment, it’s gotten easier to get back to what’s happening right now.
Putting my phone to the side and noticing how the sun hits the leaves helps. And, whenever I notice that my mind has drifted, I recognize it without judgment and bring myself back to the natural beauty around me.