Here are 4 Tips to get you on your way
We will soon be crossing the threshold into summer. I don’t know about you, but summer reminds me of my childhood and being out in nature. During those carefree days, I had a deliberate sense of mindfulness to enjoy every moment with lighthearted curiosity and delight.
Do you ever find yourself missing those days of joy? Are you longing to reclaim some of that stress-free peace, playfulness, and oneness with nature?
Here are four tips to get you started:
1) Dig in the dirt
Remember that happy feeling you got while playing in the dirt as a kid? It turns out that when we dig in the dirt, we stir up microbes in the soil, and inhaling these increases serotonin, making us happier and more relaxed.
No room or time for a garden of your own? Try searching out a community garden. If that seems too much, try planting some herbs in small pots for a new culinary experience. Many herbs will thrive with very little maintenance. And if herbs aren’t your thing, repotting a house plant can also bring joy and satisfaction.
Feel the dirt. What type of texture does it have? Is it warm or cool? Is it damp or dry? Smell the dirt and see if you can determine what if any, kind of scent you pick up. Studies have shown that digging in the dirt relieves depression and anxiety and increases overall well-being.
2) Make a date for some cloud watching
Did you ever lie in the grass as a child and stare at the sky? I did, and I must confess; it is still a favorite pastime. There is something about the experience that feels expansive. This place of expansiveness melts away stress and often leaves room for looking at life from a different perspective.
Create a comfortable place outdoors to sit or lie down and just be. Take a few slow deep breaths, feel your body or feet on the earth, and let your eyes rest on the clouds. Are they moving or seem to be standing still? Are they high in the sky or closer to the horizon? Are they puffy or wispy? Perhaps you see a face, an animal, or an object. Let this be an invitation to explore with your imagination. If a unwanted thought comes in, let it pass just a cloud in the sky.
3) Find a focal point and let it mesmerize you
The focal point is something to just watch and observe. It can be anything, preferably something connected to the natural world. Perhaps you choose a tree. You may notice the texture of its bark or the shape or pattern of its leaves. Your focal point may be a bird hopping on the ground looking for worms or pieces to build a nest, or it may be as simple as an ant in a small patch of grass at your feet. The point is to engage and, for that moment, give it your full awareness and just notice. How does this experience make you feel, and where is that feeling present in your body?
4) Interact with a body of water
One of the highlights of my childhood summers was playing in the water, and I bet it was yours too. Water cools, moves, and sparkles; its sound is often called nature’s white noise. It has a calming ability that marine biologist Wallace J. Nichols, author of Blue Mind, terms”the blue mind effect,” which refers to the meditative state we feel when we are close to water.
The invitation here is to visit a lake, a river, an ocean, a small creek, or a babbling brook. Experience the element of water. Place your feet in or wade about; skip a stone and watch for ripples; sit quietly on the edge and listen to its sounds. Does it have a message for you? If you can not find a natural water source, a long soaking bath can produce many of the same relaxing feelings.
So many times when we think about a mindfulness practice, we believe that we need to sit cross-legged on a mat or cushion, our hands and bodies posed in a certain way, our backs straight as a board, and while that might work for many, the truth for many others is it does not. Mindfulness can also be about doing and being with awareness of the natural world; that’s where Forest Therapy comes in. Don’t get hung up on the name Forest Therapy. Don’t get me wrong. The woods are places of great magic, but a park, arboretum, or even your backyard can accomplish much the same.
So come on outside and play! Ditch the stress, reconnect with your inner child, and reclaim the aliveness you are longing for. If you need a little nudge or want some company along the way, I invite you to come along on a scheduled walk. Here you’ll get just enough guidance to have your own personal journey. If distance is an issue, watch for my virtual walks beginning this fall.
I can’t wait to see you there!
Until next time gratefully from my heart to yours,