It’s that time of year – gorgeous spring weather, chirping birds, and blooming flowers beckon us outside to revel in nature’s beauty.
Because of the springtime vibes, I’ve been taking some of my corporate meditation clients outside for a mindful walk instead of leading an indoor meditation. Both seated meditation and informal mindfulness practices like walking, eating, and conversing have been shown to be rejuvenating and restorative. Mindful walking in nature offers the added benefit of allowing your body to stretch and relax. It also gives you a chance to fill your five senses with awareness of the natural world.
Last week, I took the Allyn Media team down to a nearby creek for silent time in nature. We witnessed a black swan trumpeting, spring flowers blooming, and the gentle ebb and flow of the creek – all just a 4-minute walk from the office.
After we got back to the office (and ended our silent practice), the employees shared that they felt both joyful and relaxed from the change of scenery and the walking practice. This feeling of restoration they experienced from their mindful walk is actually backed up by science.
Attention Restoration Theory demonstrates that time in nature uniquely restores our ability to pay attention. What’s more, Attention Restoration Theory suggests that even looking at pictures of nature can be restorative and relaxing. Therefore, taking a short nature break during the work day can greatly enhance your productivity for the remainder of the day.
Try out these mindfulness-inspired tips to melt stress and enjoy the natural world:
- Enjoy a Sensory Pause – This informal “5-4-3-2-1” mindfulness practice can be done outside (and inside) to help you explore and appreciate your surroundings. Become aware of five things you can see; four things you can hear; three things you can touch; two things you can smell; and one thing you can taste. (Note: This practice works really well with children.)
- Take a Mindful Walk – Any time you are walking, you can practice mindful walking. This moving mindfulness practice trains your attention to rest in the present moment. It can be helpful to leave your devices behind so you can focus your attention on bodily sensations and sensory inputs. Even if you don’t have time for a dedicated mindful walk, consider parking farther away from your destination, pocketing your phone, and practicing presence for the walk to your destination.
- Fill Your Indoor Space with Nature – If you can’t get outside of the office, you can bring nature to you (and still get attention restoration benefits). Adorn your space with indoor plants and photos of nature.
- Take a Digital Nature Break – You can also use your digital devices to support relaxation rather than distraction. Consider setting your phone, tablet, computer backgrounds, and/or computer screensaver to be rotating nature pictures (the rotation keeps the images fresh so you pay attention). You can also scroll through Instagram or Facebook using the hashtag #nature for a nourishing social media experience.
- Plan Weekly Nature Outings – No matter where you live, there is most likely a creek, park, or hiking trail within a one-hour drive of your home. Plan a trip to a nature spot once a week to get your dose of restoration.
- Meditate in Nature – Take your mindfulness practice outside! If it’s a nice day, perhaps you can meditate on your porch or in your yard. Once a week or once a month, see if you can gather a group of friends to practice meditation in a local nature spot. (My dear friend Amy Hofland is hosting a Dallas-based meditation group at White Rock Lake every Sunday morning.)
“I go to nature to be soothed and healed, and to have my senses put in tune once more.” – John Burroughs
As Chief Mindfulness Officer of Mastermind Meditation, Dorsey Standish brings research-backed mindfulness and mindful movement to clients throughout the state of Texas. A lifelong learner and scientist, Dorsey has a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Pennsylvania and is enrolled in the UT Dallas Applied Cognition and Neuroscience Master’s Program. After mindfulness transformed her own work, health and relationships, Dorsey left her corporate role at Texas Instruments to share the power of mindfulness with others full-time. Dorsey’s teachings combine neuroscience research with her experiences in Jon Kabat-Zinn’s Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Program and multiple weekend and 10-day silent meditation retreats. Join Dorsey for one of Mastermind’s upcoming applied mindfulness programs at mastermindmeditate.com/programs.