Spending time connecting with nature, intentionally and mindfully, can benefit your health. Here’s how.
The Benefits of Nature
Many of us intuitively know that spending time in nature is good for us. Maybe it’s because we’ve absorbed widespread messaging about the benefits of nature. Or maybe it’s because we’ve personally experienced moments of peace or beauty in nature, sitting in the grass or walking through a forest. But 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 functioning. Even living in places with lots of nature nearby can contribute to lower levels of stress.
Mindfully Connecting with Nature
Practicing mindfulness while you are 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 stronger connection with nature than folks in other groups. Another study showed that having a strong connection to nature increases a person’s psychological and social well-being. This makes sense, even on a surface level. 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 us slow our heart rates and relax our muscles, reducing stress symptoms in the moment.
Finding Nature Around You
Some of us are lucky enough that we can find nature right outside our doors. But many have to travel a bit farther. The good news is that urban dwellers don’t have to leave the city to experience the health-promoting effects of nature. Spending time in urban parks is associated with a number of health benefits. So how do you find the nature around you? It can be as easy as looking at your home on Google Maps and identifying the green spaces around you. It can also help to ask neighbors and local friends where they go to enjoy nature. Once you find the nature around you and figure out how to get there, 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, try this article that suggests “Walk and Notice” and “Sit and Notice” activities for mindfully connecting with nature. Or read this article, which describes seven ways to practice mindfulness in nature.