Mindfulness is a topic that has been rising in popularity over the last few years.
With more open talk about mental health, being more mindful is something everyone is wanting to know more about.
Studies have shown benefits against a wide range of ailments, both physical and mental.
These include irritable bowel syndrome, fibromyalgia, psoriasis, anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder.
So how can you manifest mindfulness and how can it benefit you?
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What is Mindfulness and How Can it Help Me?
Headspace defines mindfulness as, ‘the quality of being present and fully engaged with whatever we’re doing at the moment — free from distraction or judgment, and aware of our thoughts and feelings without getting caught up in them’.
It can all seem quite complex at first, but it is actually the simplest practice you can do.
It only requires as much time as you can give (even a couple of minutes a day is productive), and the only tool you need is your mind.
In simple terms, I’d describe my mindful activities as just being aware of everything around me. Just taking the time to move slowly, if at all, and concentrate on my breathing and how I feel.
It is really that straight-forward and you can’t do it wrong!
All practice is progress, and everything can be done at your own pace. This is your special time.
So, a lot of you might be thinking, what’s the point?
Well, in short, it can make you a lot happier.
According to Headspace, people who incorporate mindfulness into their lives ‘often report heightened levels of happiness, patience, acceptance, and compassion, as well as lower levels of stress, frustration, and sadness’.
Who wouldn’t want all that?
Of course everybody is different, but the evidence to support the benefits of mindfulness are immense.
One study conducted by Northeastern University, found that 10 days of mindful activity increased positivity and well-being.
Simple Mindful Activities You Can Perform Outdoors
Alongside mindfulness, spending time outdoors in nature is super beneficial to your health, mental and physical.
Being outside can boost your energy, immune system and your concentration.
Not to mention, spending time out in the open can actually make you a better person!
According to psychologists, exposure to nature can help you shrug off societal pressures, allowing you to remember and value more important things like relationships, sharing, and community.
So, what better way to do a spot of self-improvement and look after yourself, than combining the two? Mindfulness and nature.
Below, I have rounded-up the best mindful activities you can do whilst breathing in some fresh air.
Go for a walk
This is one of the simplest tasks you can do to enhance your ability to be mindful and improve your health.
Taking some time out of your day to go for a little stroll around your neighbourhood or a long hike out in the country, is all great practice.
Spend your time really taking in everything around you.
Look around you. What can you see? What can you smell?
These are great initiators to evoke mindfulness.
Practice some yoga
Now this one isn’t for everybody. If you have never practiced yoga before it might be out of your comfort zone to go out and do it in public.
However, you can begin practice at home, in your back garden is preferable.
The idea of yoga can be a bit daunting at first. I know it definitely was for me.
But you can do it, I recommend watching some beginners’ tutorials on YouTube. They really helped me.
Just remember, it doesn’t matter if you can’t do the poses correctly or it’s not comfortable for you.
Go at your own pace. The key isn’t in the positions, but in your slow movement and breathing.
Breathing in to the poses is vital for yoga.
So roll out your mat on the fresh grass and get practicing!
Similarly to yoga, meditation is a whole new experience for some.
Meditation is the purest form of mindfulness there is. All the things we have previously discussed about mindfulness all comes into meditation.
Find a quiet spot outdoors where you can comfortably sit and stay undistracted.
It is inevitable that you will become distracted at some point, whether you get caught up in your own thoughts or a loud car goes zooming past.
Do not let this trouble you. Just lovingly bring yourself back to your breathing and you will be in your happy place again before you know it.
Concentrate on your breathing
There are loads of great breathing techniques that can enhance your state of calmness and tranquillity.
Relieving yourself from stress and anxiety, something as simple as breathing had to be on the list.
Firstly, make yourself comfortable outside. Preferably, in a seated position.
I recommend closing your eyes to ensure complete focus on your breathing.
Next, establish where in your body you are breathing from.
Can you feel the expansion in your lungs, diaphragm or stomach?
Deep and slow breathing often feels like it is coming from your stomach, and this is the area I like to concentrate on.
You can simply breathe in and out slowly, with a focus on the area of rising and falling.
Or you can opt for a different breathing technique.
My favourite is the triangle method.
Imagine a triangle in your mind, and use the sides of this shape to guide your breathing.
Breathe in for 3 seconds, hold for 3 seconds, then release your breathe for another 3 seconds.
Repeat these steps over and over for a relaxing way to destress and become more mindful.
Focus on your five senses
And finally, probably the most important activity you can do…focus on your senses.
Spending time outdoors is amazing in many ways, but the vast array of colours, smells and sounds it offers has to be used to your advantage.
Using your senses to become more aware of your surroundings and the environment, is one of the most mindful things you can do, and here’s how.
- SIGHT – look around you, what can you see? Are there any people about or wildlife? Are your surroundings bright and colourful? Spend time counting all the things you can see that interest you.
- HEARING – dial into your hearing and listen out, what can you hear? Are there birds singing? Or cars driving past? Perhaps you are near a running stream? Try to count how many different sounds you can hear.
- SMELL – now concentrate on your nose, what can you smell? This one may not be as obvious as some of your other senses, but I assure you that there are smells all around. Can you smell freshly cut grass? Or has it been raining?
- TASTE – next focus on your mouth and tongue, what can you taste? Have you still got the taste of the last thing you ate? Or are you sipping a lovely warm drink? Try to describe what you can taste in a few words.
- TOUCH – lastly think about what you are touching, what can you feel? Is the warmth of the sun casting on your face? Or is there a breeze brushing past your skin? Think about how your body is making contact with the ground, are you sat down or stood up?
Thanking Nature for All Its Benefits
The way nature can enhance your mindfulness practice is second to none.
So how can we repay this amazing force for all its benefits and gifts?
For a start, we can be more conscious of our surroundings, the environment.
How is our lifestyle negatively impacting the Earth we live on?
As the dominant species of our planet, it is important to do all we can to look after our environment.
This is where sustainability comes in.
Head on over to Simplifying Sustainability to read all about how we can work together to help our planet thrive and attempt to undo all the trauma we have caused our environment so far.
Improving Our Level of Consciousness
How is our lifestyle negatively impacting the Earth we live on? As the dominant species of our planet, it is important to do all we can to look after our environment.
This is where sustainability comes in. For more information, see smplysustainable.com.
Human activity has resulted in a sustained negative impact on the environment.
Indeed, some scientists have pointed out that we are currently living in the Anthropocene, a “unit of geologic time, used to describe the most recent period in Earth’s history when human activity started to have a significant impact on the planet’s climate and ecosystems” (National Geographic Society, 2019).
Outcomes from fluctuating climate patterns are uncertain, as “the scientific community doesn’t agree about the depth of climate change impacts on the planet” (Lemkow, 2020).
However, it is our responsibility to be aware of our own actions and their intended consequences.
“The challenge remains in opening up people’s imagination to that possibility that it can be done differently”Katherine Trebeck
Simple Resources to Get Started
To unlock change, education is the first necessary step. Following this, an educational guide of resources to understand our impact on the environment has been developed.
Find the latest tools and resources to be more aware of what a conscious lifestyle is:
- Rachel Carson – Silent Spring
- Henry Thoreau – Walden
- Delia Owens – Where the Crawdads Sing
- Daniel Kahneman – Thinking, Fast and Slow
- John Mackey and Raj Sisodia – Conscious Capitalism, Liberating the Heroic Spirit of Business
- Peter H. Diamandis and Steven Kotler – Abundance, The Future is Better Than You Think
- Martin Seligman – Flourish
Podcasts + Videos
- Why the Future Economy has to be a Wellbeing Economy … (TED Talk)
- A Healthy Economy should be designated to thrive, not grow (TED Talk)
- Ellen Macarthur Foundation Circular Economy Introductory Series podcast (Apple)
- A Sustainable Mind, podcast by Marjorie Alexander (Apple)
- Sustainability Defined, by Jay Siegel and Scott Breen (Spotify)
- Ellen Macarthur Foundation Learning Hub: https://www.ellenmacarthurfoundation.org/explore
- Green Living Show https://www.greenlivingshow.ca/blog/
- United Nations Sustainable Development Goals https://www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/
- SimplifyingSustainability https://www.simplifyingsustainability.com/