As the days get shorter and the weather gets colder, it can be difficult to be motivated to spend time outside. Despite this tendency, connecting with nature, intentionally and mindfully, can benefit your health.
The Benefits of Nature
Most people are aware that spending time in nature is good. There is widespread messaging about the benefits of nature and many people have personally experienced moments of peace and beauty of sitting in the grass, walking through a forest or strolling along the ocean shore. However, there is also scientific evidence that spending time in nature has health benefits. Research studies have shown that being exposed to nature can help reduce illness, improve energy and mood, and sharpen cognitive function. Even living in places in close proximity to nature can contribute to lower levels of stress.
Mindfully Connecting with Nature
Practicing mindfulness while in nature brings even greater benefits. A recent study divided participants into groups that walked indoors, walked outdoors, and walked outdoors while practicing mindfulness. Participants in the mindful outdoor walking group had less negative mood and a stronger connection with nature than the participants in other groups.
Another study showed that having a strong connection to nature increases a person’s psychological and social well-being. Being mindful and connected with nature during time outdoors can serve as a distraction from worried thoughts and stressors. Getting in sync with nature also helps slow heart rates and relax muscles, reducing stress symptoms in the moment.
Finding Nature Around You (even when it is winter)
Depending on location, winter may seem like a daunting time to spend time outdoors–especially living in a colder climate. While snuggling up in a warm blanket on the couch may feel great, it can be beneficial to find a way that is comfortable and fun to be outside in nature.
For some, this can be getting involved in a winter sport such as snowshoeing, skiing, or snowboarding. For others, this can be walks around the neighborhood or a local park. Find a way that feels personally comfortable for you.
How do you find nature around you? Try looking at your home on Google Maps and identifying the green spaces around you. Or ask neighbors and local friends where they go to enjoy nature.
Once you find the nature around you, achieving mindfulness is fairly simple. Breathe deeply, and take in the world around you with all your senses. If you’re looking for more guidance, this article provides suggestions on “Walk and Notice” and “Sit and Notice” activities for mindfully connecting with nature. Or try this article, which outlines seven ways to practice mindfulness in nature. Winter nature is very beneficial–so bundle up and enjoy the season!
Nisbet, E. K., Zelenski, J. M., & Grandpierre, Z. (2019). Mindfulness in nature enhances connectedness and mood. Ecopsychology, 11(2), 81–91. https://doi.org/10.1089/eco.2018.0061
Passmore, H.-A., & Holder, M. D. (2016). Noticing nature: Individual and social benefits of a two-week intervention. The Journal of Positive Psychology, 12(6), 537–546. https://doi.org/10.1080/17439760.2016.1221126