Phrases like self-care and mindfulness may be trending, but that’s not a bad thing! Now more than ever, we can all benefit from slowing down. We are constantly exposed to stimulation from our phones and other devices to binging our favorite shows to even having dozens of laundry detergents to choose from! It’s a lot on our minds, and prioritizing quiet is a must for our physical and mental health. Seeing improvements in stress levels, mood, and concentration can be achieved with a little mindfulness and time outside. Read on for ways you can unplug and for the many benefits you’ll soon see in yourself!
Health Benefits of Outside Time
Whether you’re exploring your backyard or a national park, there are so many benefits to spending time outside. Here are just a few:
- It’s energizing! Getting outdoors is a natural fatigue blaster. Go for a walk, throw your dog the ball, or sit quietly on the back porch. It’s been suggested that 20 minutes of time outdoors can give you the same amount of energy as a cup of coffee.
- It helps with focus and creativity. If you are in an afternoon slump, take a break outside. Go for a walk in your neighborhood or around your office building. It’ll get your blood flowing, and the fresh air will have you feeling sharper, too. Being in nature is also great for improving memory, so if you’re a student or have an upcoming presentation, try heading to the park as you prepare!
- It improves nervous system functions. This study found the cortisol (stress hormone in the body) levels, as well as heart rate and blood pressure, were lower for those who spent time in nature versus the city.
- It is good for mental health. Multiple studies have found that being outdoors, especially being active outdoors, significantly reduces symptoms of anxiety, depression, and other mood disorders.
So not only are you doing some good by appreciating nature but getting outdoors is good for your health, too!
Outdoor Mindfulness Activities
So okay, you’re all in for spending more time outside! Maybe you’re also looking to get even more out of your time outside by incorporating some mindfulness techniques while you’re at it. We have some great ideas for helping you get there!
What is mindfulness?
You may be thinking “what is mindfulness exactly”? Mindfulness is a term that describes a heightened state of awareness or consciousness. This practice is very much rooted in staying in the present moment and being aware of your feelings, emotions, and reactions. It may be a popular buzzword now, but the techniques of mindfulness are centuries old. You can start practicing mindfulness by becoming an observer of yourself and asking some questions: How do you react to certain situations? What makes you feel triggered and why do you think that is? Do you feel like your thoughts or feelings are controlling you?
Mindfulness can sometimes be confused with meditation, and while the two go hand in hand, they aren’t quite the same thing. Meditation is a mindfulness practice where the goal is to simply sit or lay down and focus on one’s breath. The intention isn’t to necessarily clear the mind of all thought, but rather to not focus on any one thought in particular. Guided meditations are very helpful for people with all levels of meditation experience.
Benefits of Mindfulness
Just like spending more time outside, you’ll find many similar benefits to practicing mindfulness.
- It helps to regulate emotion. As we mentioned, the foundation of mindfulness is to stay in the present moment and brings a lot of focus to the breath. Having these tools in mind, you can reduce stress and become less reactive to external stimuli.
- It supports mental health. Studies have shown those who regularly practice mindfulness have decreased symptoms of anxiety and depression. One takeaway is that by focusing on the present moment, as well as what is in your control, you may likely experience a decrease in fear, worry, or rumination.
- It improves your relationships. Incorporating mindfulness into your life will also increase your compassion for others. You’ll notice you’re not as judgemental and have a higher sense of empathy.
- It gives you a higher image of self. Just like your sense of compassion for others may increase, so can your self-compassion. Regular mindfulness can result in much less negative inner dialogue, meaning you speak to yourself with kindness.
- It increases focus and memory. By regularly bringing your attention to your breath and the present moment, you become less distracted. One study suggests that because mindfulness reduces stress, which also improves memory. It’s all connected!
- It improves health in general. People who practice mindfulness are more aware of their bodies, and when something doesn’t react well or isn’t right in their bodies. Healthy routines and mindfulness go hand-in-hand, like exercising, routine check-ups, and overall improved care for ourselves.
How to Practice Mindfulness Outside
Mindfulness and outdoor time go together like peanut butter and jelly! So it’s only natural to want to combine the two. Here are some great mindfulness activities you can do outside.
Walking meditations are therapeutic, combining gentle movement in nature with mindfulness. This can be practiced by walking silently on a trail through the woods or along the shoreline. Take note of your surroundings – what you see, hear, smell, taste, feel. Allow your thoughts to pass without attaching to one in particular. If you find you’re getting distracted, that’s okay! Start again with bringing your attention to the present moment. Feelings of awe or wonder, gratitude and appreciation often bubble up when giving such attention to nature. This meditation is particularly helpful if you are feeling overwhelmed or anxious.
Bird watching is a great activity that has many benefits. It promotes mindfulness – a quiet, thoughtful activity you can do alone or with a few quiet comrades. It’s a way to learn about nature and different ecosystems and meet new people with similar interests as you. Birding is a low-stress, low-cost way for people to spend time outdoors. It’s very calming for the nervous system to be surrounded by nature. Bird watching is simply a wonderful way to see many types of animals that you may not normally get a chance to appreciate. Check out our full bird watching guide here.
Study Local Plants
A great way to feel more connected to the earth is to learn more about it! There is so much to learn about the region where you live, and you don’t have to go far from home to see. Head to a local park or even walk through your neighborhood with a tree identification field guide to learn more about the foliage in your area!
Plant Flowers or a Garden
Many plant lovers say that weeding the garden or flower bed is therapeutic. There’s just something about quietly working to make room for your perennials or new seedlings that eases the mind. It helps give you that feeling of accomplishment seeing your clean plot, too!
Fun Outdoor Activities for Kids
Getting the kids involved makes these activities even more enjoyable! Plus, kids can benefit greatly by starting mindfulness practices early in life. You can do the activities above as a family to help teach children how to appreciate Mother Earth and learn more about plants and wildlife.
We hope you can benefit from these tips! There are so many benefits to spending more time outside and practicing mindfulness. Try to incorporate these practices daily – remember, a little goes a long way!
This post may contain affiliate links.