Have you ever taken a moment to appreciate warm sunshine on your face? Stopped to watch a bird soaring overhead? Listened to leaves rustling in a gentle breeze? If not, now is the time to start! Why? Because experiencing nature is essential for our wellbeing. Our deepest origins lie in the natural world and time in the great outdoors can be calming, invigorating, beautiful… and lots of fun! Mindfulness is paying attention without judgement to the present moment and it’s the perfect way to enhance our connection with nature. Claire Thompson, a project manager at BirdLife International reveals seven mindfulness exercises we can use to enhance our experiences with nature…
Bring your attention to your breathing. Where do you feel the air coming in and out of your body? Rest your awareness there. Is your mind wandering? Just kindly bring it back to your breathing. Remind yourself that trees release the oxygen we inhale and absorb the carbon dioxide we exhale. As we breathe, we are borrowing air before returning it to nature.
Touch the earth
Stand, sit or lie in your garden, in a forest, in the park, by the sea or up a mountain. Bring your awareness to the parts of your body which are in contact with the ground. What do they feel like? Can you feel the ground supporting you? How does it make you feel?
Tune in to birdsong
Find a quiet spot and close your eyes. Listen to the sounds of the birds. If your mind wanders, gently bring it back to your hearing. Are the songs high or low pitched? How many different notes can you hear? Is it the same song repeated? Which is your favourite? How do they make you feel?
Smell the herbs
Visit your local herb garden or grow your own. Crush a few different herbs with your fingers. Do they smell sweet? Aromatic? Spicy? Pleasant? Unpleasant?
Imagine you’re another animal
Our human experience is one amongst many – what about other animals? What might they be experiencing? If you come across other birds, mammals or insects as you walk in nature or in your garden, have a thought for how they might be feeling. Like you, they are also going about their everyday lives. What’s their take on it?
Find your ‘nature sit spot’
Find a quiet spot where you won’t be disturbed for 20-30 minutes. Remain still. What can you see in front of you? What can you see in your peripheral vision? What can you hear? What can you feel on your skin? What can you smell? Bring your awareness to each of your senses in turn. What do you notice over 20-30 minutes? How did things change? Come back and repeat the exercise at different times, on different days, at different times of year. Did you notice any changes? Any regular animals visiting?
Book a nature holiday
Spending time in nature is the best way to relax and unwind away from our busy modern lives. Plan a holiday adventure in the wilderness or book a retreat in the mountains.
Claire Thompson is a project manager at BirdLife International and the author of Mindfulness & the Natural World: Bringing our Awareness back to Nature (£8.99, Leaping Hare Press)