“National ‘All Is Our’s Day’ can be looked at as a time to reflect on all of the beauty of nature and all the wonderful things in life. All the natural wonders of the world are there for all to enjoy. Become aware of all of the beauty in your surroundings. All of these spectacular gifts we have been given are shared by all.” http://www.nationaldaycalendar.com/days-2/national-all-is-ours-day-april-8/
This is a great time to reflect on the psychological and health benefits of being in nature. The benefits extend to our performance in all areas of life. There is research that suggests that walking in nature reduces stress, reduces the risk of cancer and chronic illnesses such as diabetes, reduces anxiety and depression symptoms, lowers blood pressure and cholesterol, and is linked to longevity. (Source: https://www.fs.fed.us/pnw/about/programs/gsv/pdfs/health_and_wellness.pdf )
Furthermore, the New York Department of Environmental Conservation listed the following benefits:
- Boosts immune system
- Lowers blood pressure
- Reduces stress
- Improves mood
- Increases ability to focus, even in children with ADHD
- Accelerates recovery from surgery or illness
- Increases energy level
- Lowers blood pressure
- Improves sleep (Source: dec.ny.gov/lands/90720.html )
These studies mentioned are focused on trees and forests. However, many of the benefits accrue being outside regardless of environment or climate, including parks in urban areas (assuming air pollution is at a minimum).
To enhance your experience outside, there are several mindfulness exercises that you can practice while being outdoors. Thich Nhat Hanh, or Thay as people know him, and many others have written about these exercises. I have provided a partial list for you to try.
- Mindful Walking: This is a wonderful meditation for moving and mindfulness in nature.
- Thich Nhat Hanh mindfulness video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ms6EylTW-2o This is literally a video of one of his talks, so be patient and allow a couple of hours to watch it. Also, remember this is about mindfulness, not religion, just in case you have an initial reaction to it.
- ‘The interdependence of all of us and the earth’ meditation. Thay suggests we can meditate on the interconnections of ourselves and the earth through mindfulness. (https://www.theguardian.com/sustainable-business/zen-thich-naht-hanh-buddhidm-business-values ) “Breathe in, be aware of your body and look deeply into it, realize you are the Earth and your consciousness is also the consciousness of the Earth.” (https://creativesystemsthinking.wordpress.com/2015/10/24/realize-you-are-the-earth-thich-nhat-hanh/ )
- Nature Meditations: These meditations focus on the experience of nature, sight, sound, touch, smell, and taste. (http://www.meditationoasis.com/how-to-meditate/simple-meditations/nature-meditations/ )
- Mindful Eating Meditation: This meditation focuses on eating, food, and the interconnection of all required in nature and our lives for us to be able to practice the mindful experience of eating. http://www.gaiam.com/discover/412/article/zen-your-diet/
Mindfulness can enhance our experience of nature, which can enhance our health, which can enhance our performance in all areas of our daily lives. We only have this moment, be present with it…mindfully.
Have a day filled with mindfulness, the benefits of nature and extend kindness to all you meet.
Robert A. Mines, Ph.D. Chairman, and Psychologist