Mindfulness in Nature
by Kendahl Chergosky
Why do we enjoy being outdoors?
I asked friends and family members to consider the question “why do you enjoy being outdoors” this week, and received a multitude of answers. Some simply said “nature is neat”, “I like hearing the birds”. Some got a little more introspective and answered things like “everything is alive, even though it’s still”, “the sun feels rejuvenating”, and “it makes me feel closer to God”. Even more gave me paragraphs, marveling at what humans can’t make, enjoying the feeling of their small scale in the grand scheme, admiring the intricacies of the chemistry and mathematics that go on just under the surface, the complexity of life, etcetera etcetera.
Many experience a pull to the outdoors– some more than others. Still, researchers have been busy exploring the benefits of exposure to nature, especially for younger children. We know that those who report spending time in nature on average have lower stress, anxiety, and it’s been estimated that as little as two hours a week outdoors correlates with reduced risk of cardiovascular disease.
Recently, people are flocking to parks, trails, and other green spaces to stave off cabin fever, with many locations noting a dramatic uptick in foot traffic. It may be that people are simply bored in their homes, or it could be that they’re seeking a peaceful experience, a break from the constant haranguing of news-fueled anxiety.
Being in nature is the perfect time to reflect and practice mindfulness. CNC Contract Naturalist and RYT-500 yoga instructor Tonya Schmitt has been hosting weekly mindfulness sessions via Zoom, focused on finding peace through connecting with nature. In her own words, Tonya describes mindfulness in nature as follows:
“Mindfulness involves paying attention to our sensory experiences without judgement. Nature offers countless ways to connect with our senses. We can feel soil under our feet, listen to squirrel chatter, smell fallen leaves, see grasses dance, and so much more. These simple connections profoundly impact our sense of well-being. The effects can include feeling more present, less anxious, more happiness and less depression.”
Wednesday mornings, Naturalist Abbey Holden has also been posting “Wake-Up Wisconsin” videos like the one above, recorded right at CNC’s WI campus. You can check them out if you’re looking for a slice of calm and can’t otherwise get outside.
Consider for yourself: Why do you enjoy being outdoors? Is there a way in which you can be more mindful in your enjoyment? Think introspectively about what makes you feel good, then seek it out! If you’re even going for a walk around the block, here are some tips on getting started with mindfulness:
- Focus on your breathing. Breathe deeply and slowly.
- Walk slowly, and pay attention to how your feet connect with the ground.
- Take in small sights, things which are easy to miss if you’re not actively looking.
- Do some simple stretches.
- Listen closely. We can take in the world around us using all of our senses.
If you’re interested in utilizing CNC as a resource for your own mindfulness in nature, you can:
Take part in Tonya’s weekly Mindfulness Meditation Zoom session for free!
Tune in Wednesday evenings from 7:00-7:15PM by clicking this link.
If you decide to spend your time in nature at CNC, we also remind you to practice proper social distancing for outdoor spaces. For a refresher on what that looks like, click here!