A sense of calm can be found in the natural world that is hard to find anywhere else.
Just being present in a garden can bring us peace and pleasure, but adding mindfulness practice while in the natural world can have a dramatic impact on our well-being.
Mindfulness is defined as the basic human ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we’re doing, in and outside of our bodies. It can be practiced anywhere at any time, but intentional time spent in nature gives us a chance for reflection, reconnection and spiritual renewal.
Living mindfully — in the present moment — can be a challenge as our lives become ever busier, louder and more hectic, leading to escalating stress and anxiety levels.
One study found the average American spends 93% of their time in enclosed buildings and vehicles and are suffering what is being called a nature deficit disorder.
We have the choice to shape our environment to create greater peace and well-being.
Research is solid regarding the health and wellness benefits of time in nature. Mental health professionals are prescribing time in nature, ecotherapy or nature therapy, to improve mood, lower stress and reduce anxiety and depression.
As few as 15 minutes can provide benefits, although research suggests 120 minutes per week is the optimal exposure for the greatest benefits.
We need not travel to one of our country’s magnificent national parks to reap the health benefits of time in nature. Local green and blue spaces (a lake, river, or ocean), a park, a backyard, or even having living plants in your home or office can provide benefits for your mind, body and spirit.
We are fortunate to live in an area with an abundance of natural settings available for us to explore.
Time spent in nature is a multi-sensory experience that can be enhanced by purposely tapping into our five senses while there. Research on the practice of forest bathing, a Japanese practice established in the 1980s, has demonstrated that merely walking mindfully through the forest and engaging all our senses has proven to be an effective tool to overcome the ill effects of a hectic life and stressful work environment.
If you are new to the concept of accessing nature’s healing properties and mindfulness practices, here is a way to begin.
Using the 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 grounding method for anxiety and stress, relax in your natural setting. Take three deep breaths to center yourself.
Now ask yourself:
• What are five things I can see?
• What are four things I can hear?
• What are three things I can smell?
• What are two things I can touch?
• What is one thing I can taste?
This practice can be used anywhere and will calm you and bring you into a closer connection with yourself and nature.
Natural spaces, green and blue, are not just nice to have for humanity. They are must-haves for our physical, spiritual and emotional health and well-being. Take advantage of these places and spaces whenever and wherever you can. Find a way to bring a piece of nature and the peace of nature into your life every day.
Linda Peterson is a life purpose and wellness coach at Statera Integrated Health & Wellness Solutions in Dubuque.