Spend as much time as possible in nature as strong scientific data indicate numerous fascinating health benefits of being outdoors in open air. Mountain or seaside, lake or river, forest or botanical garden, park or private backyard – choose from an endless palette of natural surroundings. Walk, run, bike, exercise, bird-watch, engage with gardening, have a picnic or just sit and meditate – the choice is yours. As simple as walking barefoot gives strong sense of connection with Mother Nature. Note that any physical exercise performed in any natural environment is perceived to be less exhausting.
The importance of innate human attraction and connection with nature is undeniable:
it provides us shelter, food, energy and many other resources! Studies show that as few as 20 minutes of everyday exposure to nature has splendid effects: protection and enhancement an overall mental, emotional and physical human health and well-being.
Among abundant benefits (not limited to):
• Better mood, more positive emotions and attitude towards life. In the long run it ensures the emotional stability and joyful state of being. Note that just by looking at any natural scene or landscape activates the brain parts associated with the general emotional balance, happiness and recollection of pleasant memories. As few as 5 minutes in any natural setting may easily uplift your mood!
• Increase of mental strength: improved memory power, significant increase of attention span, better problem solving skills, advanced creativity, reasoning, intellect etc. Nature has the power to restore and replenish our brain.
• Healthier immune system and extra resilience in facing any difficulties. Exposure to healthy bacteria found in nature helps downgrading allergies and other autoimmune disorders. Interestingly, studies show that 2 to 4 hours spent in the wood for several consecutive days significantly increase white blood cells responsible for fighting cancer!
• Peace of mind, tranquility and stress relief: the natural world acts as an ecological anti-depressant. Devoting time to wildlife calms and re-balances us. For example, being near the waterfall, watching the breaking waves or river torrents recover the energy levels (plenty of negative ions are found in these areas which, if breathed in, function as the natural energizer). Blood pressure, heart rate and level of cortisol (stress hormone) reduction is also notable (e.g. 15 minutes of “forest bathing”, i.e. sitting in the woods, or simply walking is highly beneficial).
• Better self-awareness, development of a sense of identity, expanded understanding of nature itself and mindfulness of being part of it (especially beneficial for children).
• Stronger self-esteem, fulfillment, strength and confidence. Our to-do-list seems more manageable and personal goals appear easily achievable.
• Protection and recovery from obesity, stroke and heart diseases, diabetes, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder, asthma and other respiratory diseases, autism, attention deficit disorder etc.
As any meditative practice meditation in nature is free and limitless. The success depends on one’s imagination and determination. Feel free to experiment and seek what suits you best; your individual preferences, interests and needs play major role. Enjoy and appreciate whatever you are engaged with. Do not hesitate to share the experience with your family or/and friends.
There might be 2 types of “nature meditation” distinguished:
• Open Eyes Nature Meditation. Observe the beauty and harmony of the scenery. Notice every shape, light, and color, whatever catches your attention. Try to see it with your “fresh eyes” as if it was your first time, as if you were a child. Do not analyze or attempt to explain what you see. Just relax and enjoy. Let yourself be amazed by all the different silhouettes of leaves, the colors and aromas of blooming flowers, the texture of tree bark, the sound of wind and birdsong etc. Remark all the living beings. You may sit or walk around; smell, gently touch, involve all the senses.
• Closed Eyes Nature Meditation. The focus here is set on witnessing mainly the sounds (swaying leaves, wind blow, water, bugs, birds etc.) and the odors (flowers, grass, soil, animals etc.). Feel the freshness of the air you breathe in. Concentrate on being present in the wildlife; fill yourself with appreciation and joy. If your mind starts wandering elsewhere (e.g. daily life, to-do-list, relationships etc.) simply let those thoughts vanish by bringing back your attention to the sounds and odors that surround you.
For any type of meditation pay attention to your breath. You may also wish to apply deep abdominal breathing techniques (refer to the article “Deep Breathing Exercises”).
Keep in mind: the more nature you get, the better you feel!