Experiencing a natural environment helps us reduce stress, reduces instances of intrusive thoughts, and brings enrichment to our lives. Here are some easy (and scientifically proven) ways of practicing mindfulness in nature:
- Sit and notice the nature around you. When you're at your desk, take a moment to look out the window. What do you feel? What do you see? Setting aside moments to check in with the immediate natural world help give us a break from social media and the demands of business, while focusing on body sensations helps ground us in our physical reality and pay attention to what we need in the present moment.
- Buy yourself a plant (or two!). Studies show that having living things around your work and living space helps increase levels of joy. The moments that you take to step away from work to water and care for your plants force you to pay attention and engage with the natural world, and taking the time to create a nurturing bond with another living thing (even if it's a cactus!) creates positive neural feedback that makes you feel good.
- Find ways to bring your routine outside for a sensory check-in. Exposing yourself to a natural environment gives you a chance to literally breathe in the natural world. In their research, the Pearlmutters found that " ... The mere sniff of a certain scent can shift brain waves and activity from those associated with disease and cognitive decline to those linked with health and wellness." Stop and smell the roses on a neighborhood walk. Take a deep breath! Increased awareness of the life that surrounds you does wonders to quiet the mind.
Developing a meditation practice can be a daunting prospect. When many of us think of meditation, we picture a yellow-robed monk spending days in silent contemplation — not an experience many people are prepared to practice in their own life! But the science supporting meditation is strong.
According to the Pearlmutters, meditative practices linked to mindfulness " ... Reestablish brain connections so that we can use our high-level brain functions to better navigate our lives ... and reconnect to our own deep sense of meaning and wellness." Sounds good, right? Here are a few tips for developing a mediation practice of your own:
- Focus on the breath. Consciously breathing in and out, feeling the sensation of the air filling your lungs, is a simple yet highly impactful place to start. Try counting the breaths you take — five in and five out — paying attention to the way deep breathing feels. Deep breathing has a powerful impact on your body's ability to handle pain, stress and negative emotions, which can help you break free from the negativity cycle.
- Try a guided meditation. We live in a golden age of meditation technology, and you can find guided breath work and meditation classes everywhere you look, from YouTube to apps and beyond, so you're sure to find a style that appeals to you! Netflix even recently added an illustrated guided meditation class to their offerings, which could bring new meaning to the phrase, "Netflix and chill."
- Link meditation and movement. For something that sounds so simple, focusing on the breath is surprisingly difficult. Some beginning meditators find that combining movement and meditation gives them access to a deeper level of focus. Try adding conscious breath to your next yoga session or focusing on the effects of your breathing as you take a walk.
For the Pearlmutters, meditation is fundamental to successfully practicing mindfulness. "Because meditation focuses on areas of the brain that help us stay focused and present, it helps us reprogram our brains for well-being, empathy and gratitude. It also acts as a shield against ongoing efforts to hijack our brains, strengthening our ability to resist." Adding even 10 minutes of mediation to your daily routine is an easy way to start your mindfulness journey.
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