Nature is like an old friend you just don’t spend enough time with but keep meaning to call.
Our busy lives always seem to get in the way.
Even when we plan some time in nature, it’s usually to do something specific, like hiking, camping, or fishing.
But intentional time in nature can soothe your soul, calm your nervous system, and refresh your mind.
It is the ultimate mindfulness activity that is easy, free, and provides a myriad of benefits.
What Is Nature-Based Mindfulness?
Nature mindfulness means simply being in nature and absorbing the sights, sounds, and energies of the space around you.
Instead of merely being in nature, you are with nature. You are part of nature. You are one with it.
You can practice mindfulness in the privacy of your own yard, but here are some additional considerations:
- LOCAL PARKS: Going to a park closer to home but far enough away from crowds and urban noise.
- STATE/NATIONAL PARKS: Find a place large enough to find a secluded space.
- SEASONS: Visiting nature during different seasons to experience the circle of life.
- WEATHER: Nature brings its own filter that you can’t find on Instagram. Cloudy days bring a different color spectrum to leaves and grass than bright sunny days. Animals move differently during a drought than after fresh rain.
mind·ful·ness: 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.
Practicing and teaching others this practice can help reduce the risk of our children facing Nature-Deficit Disorder, a behavior-changing condition due to a lack of access to or exploring outdoor spaces.
What Are the Benefits of a Nature Mindfulness Practice?
A few moments of fresh air in the park might feel restorative, but even science backs it up.
The American Psychological Association provides a list of numerous benefits:
- Lowers stress levels
- Increases the “feel good” chemical in your brain
- Improve moods
- Increases overall attention span
- Reduces risk of mental health disorders
Nature mindfulness will also help you see beyond the small world that sometimes feels like it’s suffocating you.
We clear our minds and remove external emotional influences to just exist in the emotionless world of nature.
Nature doesn’t know good or bad. It just knows growth, rejuvenation, survival, and patience.
Making time for nature meditations or mindfulness also gives you a sense of control in your life. Instead of letting your calendar or commitments dictate your life, you choose to make yourself a priority.
When you are a better version of yourself, you are better for those you love and the challenges life brings.
7 Ways to Practice Mindfulness in Nature
Whether you want to salute the sun as it rises with a yoga flow, practice nature meditations in a serene setting, or walk through your mind as much as the woods, nature is always there for you as a trusted companion.
The right mindset and observances will help you make the most of nature mindfulness.
1. Be Nourished
Nature feeds the soul with all the things that are missing from our daily lives. Take the time to inhale deep breaths and exhale at a slower rate.
Close your eyes and feel mother earth beneath your feet. Run your hands through the lush grass. Lay back and watch the wind rustling the leaves above.
Drew Barrymore posted a video that went viral where she was ecstatically frolicking in the rain and beaming, “Whenever you can go out into the rain – do not miss the opportunity!!”
She’s onto something. Dancing in the rain (as long as there isn’t lightning nearby) is a way to stop caring so much about how you look and exchange it for how you feel.
Sit back and let the sun warm your body (you use sunscreen, right?). Feel how it radiates and how your body reacts. Try a Yoga Nidra practice by focusing on specific body parts and how they react to the earth, the wind, and the sun.
The wind might tickle your toes while the sun warms up your hands, which are all too familiar with a cold office setting.
2. Be Empowered
Mindfulness in nature is empowering. You see barren trees in winter that will come back to life in due time.
You watch the ant carrying 5,000 times its body weight to help the colony survive. Look at the rock layers that tell a story of history going back centuries and building for the next century.
See how water, with persistence and relentlessness, carves canyons, shapes beaches, smooths stones, and creates waterfalls. Nature has the determination to keep going despite any challenges.
Even looking at major disasters, like wildfires, can be synonymous with life’s devastating yet empowering moments. Without human interaction, wildfires are part of nature.
They cause massive destruction, but it’s also a way to remove “nature’s litter” and restore the soil for fresh new life.
Without pride or prejudice, the trees heal, the soil flourishes, and the plants grow. Think of this process the next time you feel like a personal issue is a disaster you can’t overcome.
3. Be Inspired
All too often, the hustle of life makes us miss the magic.
Watch how the sunset illuminates the sky, how the water reflects it through the waves, and the way it paints a different picture of the surrounding trees and plants with every slight drop on the skyline.
Look for the lone wildflower, sprouting beauty among weeds. Find a bird feeding its babies or hunting for the perfect worm.
Identify a smaller tree that has adapted to the lack of sunshine by twisting toward the sun. Search for rocks that tell a story of pre-historical times.
You can also change your perspective while exploring nature:
- Bring binoculars to get insight into higher environments or events in the distance.
- Take a magnifying glass to explore the close-up intricacy of moss, flower petals, or bugs.
- Climb a tree (safely) and see the world from a higher view.
- Crawl into a ravine to see how the world rises above you.
4. Be Centered
Whether standing in mountain pose or in a seated pose, simply “be one” with nature. Notice how nature accepts you as you are and how you have no judgment of falling leaves or bees tending to flowers.
Do not see yourself as being surrounded by nature. See yourself as yet another extension of it.
- ROOTS: Imagine the roots of the trees and how they support them without needing any praise. Write down three people, places, or things that are your “roots.”
- PURPOSE: Waterfalls aren’t just acts of gravity and natural settings. They also purify and infuse oxygen into the water for the fish to survive. With your mind more centered, write down thoughts about your purpose that others might not realize.
- CIRCLE OF LIFE: Identify the circle of life happening around you. Butterflies live just three weeks, but they grow from caterpillars into a critical part of the pollination system that gives us food to eat. They travel distances to spread pollen to other plants, providing genetic variations that make plants better able to survive diseases and toxins.
Listen to the sounds. Identify five of them to better ground yourself. Listen to birds calling each other and how they respond.
Sit in stillness while two squirrels follow their natural instincts, whether they are crafting a way to remove the shell from a nut or chasing each other in a melodic flow up and down a tree.
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5. Be Calm
Barring a run-in with a bear or mountain lion, being in nature is soothing. Even watching the roaring river rapids can bring a sense of calm.
Feel the stress of your life melting away while nature runs its course. Remember that moment. Bring a journal if you’d like to describe that moment.
You’ve been here once, and you can return here again if only in your mind.
A great line from the hit show Breaking Bad resonates here as Mr. White explains to his chemistry class, “When you feel overwhelmed, and you will, just keep in mind that one element – carbon – is at the center of it all. There is no life without carbon. Everything that lives, lived, or will live – carbon.”
Mindfulness in nature is simply returning to where you came from and where you will end up.
Practice nature meditations or affirmations while you’re there, especially if you’re having trouble leaving the urban world behind.
6. Be Connected
We are inherently trained from birth to see our perspective of the world and call it a reality. The world around us constantly feels like we are a viewer of reality within our field of vision.
As you sit in stillness, think of how the owl in the tree above you sees the same landscape you are witnessing. Imagine the view of the caterpillar on the tree next to you.
Lie back and watch the clouds ebb and flow with the jet stream. Avoid the urge to codify what they look like.
Stillness has several benefits:
- Your presence won’t influence the world around you. Nature will take its course without seeing you as a friend or foe.
- You free your mind from stressors and “fight or flight” mode to simply observe the world around you.
- Your mindset will be different when you start moving again after the clarity of stillness.
Simply connect your mind and repeat the affirmation, “I am present in life. I am still. I do not judge the movement around me.”
NOTE: Most state and national parks have a “leave no trace” policy, where you can’t so much as pick a flower or take a rock. Connecting with nature should be using your senses, not altering your surroundings in any way.
7. Be Unplugged
Before you head to nature, let someone know where you are going and when you plan to be back.
If you are extra anxious about this activity, bring ribbon pieces to mark your path into the wilderness by tying them to trees or marking rocks with chalk.
Then you can feel safe leaving your devices behind. Mindfulness in nature isn’t about taking pictures or posting selfies with #NatureMindfulness.
When you remove the digital chains that we carry around all day, you’re setting free your mind, emotions, and soul to explore something else.
At first, it will feel uncomfortable – like an appendage is missing.
This feeling is a sure sign you should dedicate more time to mindfulness in nature because you shouldn’t feel like a device controls you. Look how well that tree does without an Instagram account or regular group texts!
For those who think, “I wish I had time for that,” here is some tough love – you do. Instead of happy hour, your group can go to a local park and focus on nature mindfulness.
Skip the bi-monthly pedicure and spend that time in a nearby park. Dedicate one weekend day a month for short road trips into nature.
Even taking five minutes each morning to marvel at the beauty of your own backyard will have benefits that last all day.