Nature helps people feel better. We know that from our own anecdotal experiences, but now science backs this assertion up, as well. You don’t need to wait for your next vacation somewhere exotic to enjoy all the beauty that nature has to offer; you can start enjoying nature close to home today. And when you add in mindfulness practice, you give nature an opportunity to help you on your way to a happier brain. Here are some tips to get you started.
- Get grounded: You can get grounded any time by focusing on the soles of your feet. Take a walk at a local nature preserve, through a forest, or along a nearby body of water. As your feet hit the ground, send your attention to them. Feel the rhythm of each step. How do your feet feel? Are you they in socks and shoes? Barefoot? Cold or warm? Moist or dry? Focusing on your feet and your steps brings you fully into the present moment, breaking the loop of discursive thoughts that might otherwise take over.
- Become an observer: Go to a favorite outdoor location where you can immerse yourself in nature. Then, focus on the temperature of the air; feel the breeze where it touches your skin. Notice any smells, and really look at the sights — leaves, flowers, etc. If you are walking, pay attention to how your feet feel hitting the ground, how your legs feel working, how your arms feel swinging at your sides. While you are noticing all these sensations, you are not ruminating.
- Take in the good: As you experience things out in nature that bring you peace, joy, relaxation, or exhilaration, take a few moments to notice that and let it sink in. Let those positive feelings fill up your body, remembering that each time you do this, you are rewiring your brain for more happiness and resilience. That’s experience-dependent neuroplasticity in a nutshell!
Tap into nature to feel more peace in your life now, then call upon the moments that stand out to you most later on when you need an infusion of peace or joyfulness. From listening to the birds sing in your yard, to watching the wind rustle through nearby trees, to experiencing deeper connections with the natural world that surrounds you, simply allow yourself to be mindfully open and aware. You might be surprised at how powerful an impact this mindful time in nature can make in your life.