Mindful Nature: Mind-full of the moment
Living in today’s world can feel overwhelming at times. So many things distract us while we try so hard to concentrate on that one task- and what was that task anyway? Or the constant doing energy and the need to hurry up has us rushing around non-stop.
Why am I rushing?
It feels like a habit, because for the most part, I don’t need to rush to finish dishes, or feed the dog, or respond to emails….
When I’m feeling rushed, and anxious, or my mind is scattered and unable to focus, these are signs that I need to take a break. To unplug and step away from the computer or phone or ever-growing to-do list and get out of my head.
There are many ways to do stop momentarily for a break and get refreshed. For me, my go-to solution is to step outside for a short nature break.
It can be just a few minutes to disconnect with the busyness and get grounded, centered and clear my head to return to my body. Coming to awareness of my body and senses brings me to focus on the present moment– and away from the task list or problems I need to fix.
Even if you believe you are “too busy” to take a 5 minute break, give this a try.
You’ll actually end up saving time because you’ll work more effectively when you return from the break. I know, it seems counter-intuitive. But we have been conditioned to value productivity and working hard over the balancing of rest and self care.
Sensory Nature Break
Here’s a short centering activity. We will use our senses to bring us to the moment and unplug from the busy mind. Try this even for 5 minutes.
- Go outside without your phone. Take a few breaths filling your lungs with fresh oxygen. What does the air smell like?
- Look up at the sky- what do you see– blue sky, gray sky, clouds or clear?
- How many shades of green can you see? Is there any movement? (animals, birds, the wind)
If you have a few more minutes, keep going:
- Walking on the earth, notice what it feels like with each step.
- What is under your feet? Feel the sensation of the dirt, earth, grass or concrete under your shoes. To super-charge your grounding, take your shoes and socks off to connect with the earth.
- If you prefer to sit, find a spot on the ground or on a boulder or bench.
- What does this surface feel like as you are seated? Hard, uneven, soft, firm, comfortable?
- Take a few more breaths.
- Stop moving, and Listen…
- What do you hear? Birds, the wind, rusting leaves, people, cars? Just notice without judging the sounds. What is the farthest sound you can hear?
- Touch something- a leaf, the grass, tree trunk, a flower.
- How does it feel to your fingers or palm?
- Or notice your skin. How does your clothing or the sun/wind feel on your skin?
Mindful nature time
When we pay attention with our senses, we are being in this moment— in the only moment that matters.
By filling your mind with sensory input from the present moment, you are being mindful–your mind is full of this moment.Melinda Nakagawa
Settling into Nature’s pace, I feel calmer, and less in a hurry. Because we’re so accustomed to overdoing, constantly keeping busy and productive, that we’ll slide back to a frantic speed. But know you know one thing that can bring you back to slower pace!
When you are here, you are freed from “mental time traveling“- of jumping to the past (things you regret or worry about) or the future (what you need to be doing or planning or anxious about)-
If you find yourself time traveling, look at where your feet are– this is the present moment! Be mindful in this one moment, and now the next moment, and the next.
Be in your senses—listen, smell, touch, and let this moment surround you with inner peace. Let the thinking mind rest. No need to suppress the mind, just give it a breather. When you are ready, you can go back to work.
Most things can wait a few minutes. When we get grounded and clear our minds, we benefit greatly.
Notice- how do you feel now?
I usually feel calmer, clearer-headed and with better focus. Sometimes the annoying computer sluggishness subsides and after my break the problem I was trying to solve just dissolves and I have a clear answer.
There are times that I need to keep taking more breaks throughout the day. I try not to judge myself, and just go out for another break. Sometimes I need a longer break in nature if I’m feeling particularly edgy, frazzled, overwhelmed, rushed, irritated, or stuck.
When I make time for what nourishes me, I can work more effectively, and the people around me experience a more calming environment because I’m not madly rushing from task to task.
Experiment with this. Have fun taking your nature breaks. Let nature fill you with healing energy from the present moment.
If you want to expand this and get additional nature benefits, nature journaling is an effective, fun and replenishing practice. Join me for monthly online nature journal sessions with Monterey Bay Nature Journal Club, or browse my on-demand courses.
All images on this page by Melinda Nakagawa unless otherwise noted.